Worried about someone?
One in four people will have a mental health problem during the course of any given year. Mental illness can leave sufferers and those close to them confused and isolated. Not only do they have to cope with the symptoms of the illness itself and its effects, but also with the misconceived social stigma often associated with mental health conditions. A period of mental ill-health can be a trying time to say the least, but there are now many organisations and sources of support that can help those affected to feel less alone and more informed about the illness, their rights and the kinds of therapy and treatments available.
Your local Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) – which consists of a psychiatrist, psychologist and community psychiatric nurse. You will be able to get professional help for a relative or friend by contacting a member of the team. You will get a contact number from your local health centre, GP practice or local telephone directory under health board services;
Your local Community Addiction Team (CAT) – this specialist team of doctors, nurses and psychologists will provide you with information, support and help for a friend or relative. A contact number can be obtained from your local health centre GP practice or local telephone directory under health board services;
- Hospital psychiatric units and outpatient clinics
- Social worker or social services
- A spiritual advisor such as minister, priest or pastor etc
- Private clinics and facilities
- School, college or university counselling services
- Occupational health departments.
If you are a relative, friend or colleague your worry may have been triggered off by some change in the person you are concerned about. In depression there may be visible changes in a person’s behaviour, appearance, mood, attitudes, conversation and activity. Listed below are some of the common signs that someone may be depressed.
- Appearance – looks sad, slow movements, unkempt look.
- Feelings – feeling sad, crying a lot, hopeless, discouraged, or listless.
- Negative thoughts – expressed through conversation e.g. "I'm a failure", "I'm no good", "No one cares about me".
- Reduced activity – there may be a reluctance to do anything e.g. "I just sit around and mope", "Doing anything is just too much of an effort".
- Reduced concentration – this is a common complaint in depression e.g. “I cannot concentrate long enough to read the newspaper or watch television”.
- People problems – there may be a tendency to avoid others e.g. "I don't want anybody to see me", "I feel uncomfortable with people around me".
- Guilt and low self-esteem – the person may have a very negative image of him/herself "It's my entire fault", "I’m no good to anyone".
- Physical problems – are very common and may be the first indicators that something is wrong e.g. sleeping problems, weight loss or gain, decreased sexual interest, or muscular aches and pains.
- Suicidal thoughts or wishes – if the depression is severe a person may be thinking about suicide but not necessarily expressing these thoughts. However, some people will say things which may indicate that that is what they are thinking e.g. "I'd be better off dead", "What’s the point of it all".
- The most important thing anyone can do for the depressed person is to help him or her get an appropriate assessment and treatment.
- Encourage the individual to stay with treatment until symptoms begin to subside (several weeks), or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs.
- It may require making an appointment and accompanying the depressed person to the doctor.
- It may also mean monitoring whether the depressed person is taking medication.
- Offer emotional support. This involves understanding, patience, affection, and encouragement. Engage the depressed person in conversation and listen carefully. Do not disparage feelings expressed, but point out realities and offer hope. Do not ignore remarks about suicide.
- Invite the depressed person for walks, outings, to the movies, and other activities. Be gently insistent if your invitation is refused. Encourage participation in some activities that once gave pleasure, such as hobbies, sports, religious or cultural activities, but do not push the depressed person to undertake too much too soon.
- The depressed person needs diversion and company, but too many demands can increase feelings of failure.
- Do not accuse the depressed person of faking illness or of laziness, or expect him or her "to snap out of it". Eventually, with treatment, most people do get better. Keep that in mind, and keep reassuring the depressed person that, with time and help, he or she will feel better.
- Talk openly about suicide and don't avoid the issue.
- Be willing to listen and accept the individuals feelings and express yours.
- Be non-judgmental and don't debate the rights or wrongs of suicide.
- Be there for the person and be involved.
- Don't dare them to do it.
- Don't act shocked.
- Don't be sworn to confidentiality and seek support.
- Offer hope that alternatives are available.
- Take action by removing any means they may have to commit suicide.
- Get assistance from appropriate support agencies.
- Talk to the person you're worried about. Find a time when they're sober and when you're both reasonably calm.
- Tell them about the problems their drinking is causing.
- Be consistent don't keep changing your mind about what you're saying and don't say one thing and do another.
- Make clear what behaviour you will not accept.
- Make clear what action you will take if it still happens. Don't make idle threats.
- Discuss with other members of the family what you are trying to do. This will make it easier for everyone to take a similar approach, and it will be less confusing to the person who is drinking.
- Help the person who is drinking to be realistic. Don't encourage them to make promises they can't keep.
- Encourage the person to concentrate on the effects the drinking is having on their life, rather than asking them to accept a label such as "alcoholic".
- Make it easy for them to drink by buying it for them, giving them extra money, or always agreeing to go to the pub.
- Try to hide the effects of their drinking. Seeing the consequences might encourage them to change more quickly.
- Try to hide the effects from other people, e.g. phoning work with excuses, clearing up the mess, putting them to bed, missing social events for fear of embarrassment.
- Blame other things for an alcohol problem e.g. bad housing, employment problems or living in an area where there are many pubs.
- Do listen when it's your turn to receive a complaint, be open-minded and reasonable, you are not without faults.
- Don't "take out" feelings of anger or resentment on others, particularly children who can be seriously affected by an unreasonable, hostile parent.
- Get help for yourself even if the problem drinker is not prepared to do so yet.
- Being involved with someone with a drink problem can be difficult and you may need support and accurate information.
- Heavy drinking is quite a common problem and lots of people will understand how you feel, so try not to be embarrassed to talk about it.
- You need to be clear about what you are prepared to accept from the person who is drinking and how you will react if any boundaries set are overstepped. This is especially important if there is a risk of violence.
- We are all responsible for our own behaviour so don't accept blame for someone else's drinking. On the other hand you are responsible for your own reaction to it. It is not a good idea to try drinking along with them for example it won't control the drinking and will just make things worse for you.
- If someone else's drinking is making your life difficult you may need to make changes in your relationship.
- It can be disturbing and upsetting to have a relative or friend who has schizophrenia. The person may often behave “strangely” and you may have difficulty in trying to get through to them in conversation. At times they may be angry or aggressive for no obvious reason. It is sometimes difficult to know how you can help.
- Avoid arguing with your relative or friends about their beliefs regardless of how bizarre they seem to be.
- Encourage them to talk about their feelings and offer support.
- Reassure them if they appear frightened.
- Be patient particularly if the person is apathetic and listless – gentle encouragement works best.
- Assist the person to do as much for himself/herself as possible – avoid taking over.
You are a carer if you provide help and support to someone with a mental health problem and/or a physical disability. The term ‘carer’ is often used to distinguish between friends and family who provide unpaid care and paid professionals, such as care workers, home helps and people employed by someone with a disability.
Some carers are related to the person they are caring for, others are not. The carer may be looking after a parent, child, partner, grandparent or friend, for example. Some carers live with the cared-for person, whilst others live apart.
The caring relationship may be mutual. For example, a person with a mental health problem who is supported emotionally by his or her elderly parents may provide them with the practical help they need due to their physical disabilities.
Carers come from all sections of the community, but, as people from minority communities are over-represented in the statistics of those diagnosed with mental health problems, it is likely there are proportionally more carers among minority groups.
- emotional support
- access to information and advice
- time-off from caring
- financial support
- services for them and for the person they care for
- to be involved in the care planning process
- practical support
- recognition of the contribution they make.
Use the contacts below for help or to find out more information. Alternatively, if you need someone to talk to about how you're feeling, call Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 between 6pm and 2am. Remember your call is confidential and free.
- Carers Trust and Carers Scotland Both these organisations provide comprehensive information and support for carers.
- NHS 24You're not feeling well, it's the middle of the night, you can't wait until your GP's surgery opens in the morning – what can you do? Call NHS 24 on 08454 24 24 24. www.nhs24.com
- NHS 24 has launched a twelve-month trial using an online video BSL interpreting service supporting Health Boards and the Scottish Ambulance Service for planned and unplanned consultations. NHS BSL interpreting service
- NHS Inform Health information you can trust. Providing a co-ordinated approach and a single source of quality assured health information for the public in Scotland. 0800 22 44 88.
- A new mental health and wellbeing zone can be accessed at www.nhsinform.co.uk/mentalhealth
- ParentLine Scotland Free, confidential, telephone helpline for parents and anyone caring for a child in Scotland. You can call about any problem, however big or small. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 0800 028 22 33
- Childline Free and confidential 24-hour helpline for children and young people in the UK. 0800 1111