It is essential that you look after your own mental health and wellbeing, as a helper.
Whether you are supporting a colleague, an employee, or a loved one, helping to support someone else who is experiencing emotional distress or mental health issues, can have an impact on you.
As the ‘helper,’ it is important that you keep your own life jacket on. Supporting another can be draining on your emotional energy and can possibly raise issues about your own mental wellbeing that you’ve been ignoring. So, monitor yourself, and if you’re feeling affected then find someone who can give you support.
The people who are very responsive and compassionate about supporting the needs of others, sometimes don’t take as good care of their own needs. Providing intense support to another can have an impact on us, which we then need support for. If you think that you may need some help setting appropriate boundaries around those you are supporting, or just debriefing from the situation, then do so.
Signs to look for:
- Are you feeling more fatigued than usual?
- Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed?
- Are you feeling like your support for the other person is having an impact on your moods, your sense of wellbeing?
- Do you want to avoid the person for a while?
These could be signs that you also need some support.
Where can you access support?
A great place to start is to find a psychologist who you can chat with. Either through your works Employee Assistance Program; through one of the support services listed on page 34 in our most recent magazine; or through a community-based psychology service. Alternatively, find a GP who you feel comfortable talking with about your feelings. Call your medical practice and ask the receptionist to recommend a doctor who is up-to-date and helpful with mental health issues. The receptionist will usually have a good idea of who in the practice fits this bill, and will happily give you this information.
Book a double appointment with the GP to talk about your concerns. If you are feeling nervous you can take a trusted friend or family member with you. It may be helpful to write a list before you go, detailing your concerns so that if you feel overwhelmed you can pass the list to the doctor to read instead.
If the relationship in question is in a work setting, ensure that you don’t breach the privacy of the employee you have been supporting. Avoid seeking support from one of their peers. Instead, seek support from someone higher up the chain of command, from your HR team or from your EAP service.
The important thing is to get some help, explore your options and take your own mental health seriously.
By Tasha Broomhall