Today is the first day of Maternal Mental Health Week in the UK and the beginning of a series of posts discussing perinatal mental illness here at Blossom & Cave.
What is Maternal Mental Health Week?
A week-long campaign dedicated to talking about mental illness during pregnancy or after having a baby and signposting to support for all mums. The focus is on advocating for mums affected by maternal mental health and helping them to access the information and help they need to enable recovery.
This year’s theme for the third annual UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week is Mums Matter.
Someone I know is struggling, how can I best support them?
Being the family member or friend of someone going through a mental illness can be extremely tough. Unless you have been through a mental illness yourself, it is very difficult to understand why your loved one feels the way they do.
If you do have a loved one suffering from a maternal mental illness, here are some steps you can take to be supportive:
1. Learn about the illness
In order to support someone with a maternal mental illness, having all the information will help you to tailor your support and guide your decisions and actions. You can find out more about the specific maternal mental health conditions here.
2. Look after yourself
Supporting someone else with a mental illness can take its toll. Don’t be afraid to ask for the support of other family members, friends or your doctor if you need it. Share any worries or concerns you may have and visit your own GP if you are feeling tired or stressed.
You can also get support from the Carer’s Trust which provides a wealth of information and advice for carers.
3. Offer emotional support
Offer a listening ear to the person you are supporting. You don’t need to give answers or solutions to their problems, you simply need to provide space for them to talk through their feelings.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how they are feeling. If you can offer practical support, that may be helpful. Take the lead of the person you are supporting.
4. Be patient
Recovering from mental illness takes time and treatment. It may take a while to find a treatment plan that works as there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Mental illness can cause some difficult and upsetting behaviours which can create a lot of stress. Remind yourself that this isn’t your fault, or the fault of your loved one. With the right treatment, things will improve greatly but it may take some time.
What else do I need to know?
Supporting someone with a mental illness can be very difficult and very stressful. Rethink.org have a great resource site with comprehensive information on how to support others.
It is important to note that there may be a time when your loved one is in crisis or having suicidal thoughts. In this instance, it’s important to seek medical advice straight away. You can find more information on how to support someone in crisis here.
Michelle is the author of Pangs: Surviving Motherhood and Mental Illness, a book which outlines her journey through perinatal mental illness and also includes a self-help guide and list of resources to help others with their recovery. You can buy the book here or on Amazon.