Stress Relief Tips – 6 Ways to Relieve Stress
May 17, 2018
How to Support a Loved One Struggling with Mental Health Issues
June 20, 2018

Charlotte Underwood, Author of 'Life After Suicide.'

In this guest blog, mental health advocate and freelance writer Charlotte Underwood discusses how loved ones can support someone suffering with a mental health relapse.


Helping Someone Through A Mental Health Relapse


How can you tell I’m struggling?

It’s something that I wonder to myself a lot. How can people know that I am hurting or that I am in immense pain when I haven’t told them? Mental health can make it so hard to communicate, something so natural and programmed into us at birth seems all but lost when you just want to be alone… although I don’t.


Does that make sense?

I want to be alone most of the time, I like my space. But sometimes, I need someone near me, I need company, though too little or too much can make matters worse. It sounds like a mess, right? That’s just the reality of mental health, it’s complicated.

I get told often to just communicate, to let people know how I feel. It makes me sad because I want to scream but I cannot. Talking about my feelings in person, or just talking to a stranger feels impossible, it’s like my throat seizes up.

Despite this inability to allow my loved ones to know when I need a hug or a friend, it doesn’t mean I can’t let you in on some of the signs.

Something I have learnt through my years of being on the outside, is that people communicate in other ways than their voice. There is a lot in the way a person carries themselves, their body language. If you really want a clue, the eyes really can give you a big hint, humans are just naturally emotional.


Take note of my reaction

It seems like the obvious but there are many times when I have seen people completely ignore my response. If a person seems uneasy when you touch their arm, then maybe a hug isn’t a good idea. If someone looks hurt when you mention a subject, or gets frustrated with questions, maybe talking isn’t right for this situation.

You can tell a lot from how a person reacts, so pay attention to that and it can make the world of difference and avoid extra discomfort.


Don’t assume

When I don’t want to talk, it doesn’t mean that it’s time for 20 questions. Many people will try to assume or guess the reasons for my low mood but it can add fuel to the fire. A person’s mind is so complex and we can never know what another is truly thinking.

It can be incredibly overwhelming when a person tries to create a story for the emotions that maybe you don’t understand yet.


Time and Patience my friend

The old timer couple from heaven. Time and patience really can sooth pain and allow release. Although you may want to be the hero and help your friend there and then, sometimes that won’t work. Pressuring someone to come out of a relapse or putting a time limit on their breakdown can lead to a sense of being misunderstood or even bullied.

The best way to help someone to heal is through allowing them all the time and patience they need to find their courage and voice.


The little things mean the most

The best thing that someone ever did for me was placing a pillow under my head and a blanket on my body, while I was a foetus on the floor. There was no pressure to get into bed and I felt soothed, while they lay next to me and let me feel. Sometimes a cup of tea or water, maybe a bar of chocolate or just having someone sitting near you can make you feel less scared.

Just because we have a mental illness, does not mean we need extra special care, just a little love and support and that’s enough.

Each person will need different things when they are struggling. Really, these are the moments when you need to use your knowledge and compassion to be there for your loved one. There is no one size fits all for mental health but just being understanding and caring can help someone so much in a crisis. Listen to your instincts and your loved one, you can’t go much wrong with that.



Charlotte is a mental health advocate and writer based in Norfolk. She is the author of Life After Suicide and The House on the Avenue. 
For more of Charlotte’s writing, check out her website




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