Tips for family and friends

Tips for supporting those closest to you if they’ve recently find out they are expecting or have had a baby, and might be struggling with their mental health.

It’s normal to experience different emotions and feelings and it can help to talk about how you’re feeling. You are not alone.

Take Notice

You may notice that your friend or relative is acting differently? Remember that some people can try to cover the signs that they’re struggling. It might just seem that something’s not right. It could be that there’s no obvious reason why, or they could be going through something difficult or stressful.

Ask

Don’t be worried that you will need to have all the answers, or, that you will need to know how to ‘fix’ whatever is wrong. Make sure you have time to chat and start with How are you doing? or how are things going? Sometimes people say they’re alright at first when they’re not – so you may need to ask twice! Let them know that it’s ok to talk and you’re there to listen. Ask open-ended questions (ones that can’t be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’) that will help them to keep talking.

If you know your loved one has been unwell, don’t be afraid to ask how they are. They might want to talk about it, or they might not. But just letting them know they don’t have to avoid the issue with you is important. Spending time with your loved one lets them know you care and can help you understand what they’re going through.

Listen and be open minded

It can be hard to talk about your mental health. It can make you feel vulnerable and your friend or relative may need to talk about difficult issues that are affecting them. It’s very important to listen without judgement or criticism. Just showing you care and giving someone the space to talk about their feelings can be a huge help.

Keep listening

Don’t dismiss what they’re telling you, don’t suggest that you know how they’re feeling.  Phrases like ‘cheer up’, ‘I’m sure it’ll pass’ and ‘pull yourself together’ definitely don’t help. Someone experiencing a mental health problem often knows best what’s helpful for them.

If you’re concerned that they’re having thoughts of suicide, it’s best to ask; talking about it makes it less likely to happen.

Don't just talk about mental health

Keep in mind that having a mental health problem is just one aspect of your friend or family member’s life. Most people don’t want to be defined by their mental health problem, so keep talking about the things you’ve always talked about together.

Suggest and Signpost to Support

It can be difficult to take the first step to get help. You could suggest they talk to their GP, Midwife/health visitor or mental health access hub. You could let them know about this webpage, which has helpful information that you could look at together.

Stay in touch

Showing that you care can help. Drop them a text, arrange a time to chat or a social outing. You could also offer to go along to a GP or mental health appointment with them for moral support.

Look after yourself

Supporting someone else can sometimes be stressful. Making sure that you look after your own wellbeing. You can find out more information on this website.

If your partner or family member is receiving support from the Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service, you can access peer support. For further information please speak with your Health Visitor or a member of the Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service.