How to Support a Loved One or Peer with Mental Health Challenges

Jasmine Rakhra, FamilySmart® Youth in Residence (YiR) on May 18, 2018

In my day to day work at the Kelty Centre, I receive calls, emails and drop-ins from families or youth wanting guidance or resources on how they can be a better support for their loved ones/peers. As a young adult with lived experience, I would say your presence is the most important thing. It is not about what you say, but instead how you make the person you are trying to support feel.

When I was first diagnosed with depression at the age of 15 what I found to be most helpful with managing my mental health was connecting with others. Social isolation can be one of the worst things for our mental health and luckily, I had amazing friends and caring adults that would offer me the gift of their presence and time. We went out for dinners, tried different gelato shops, went to the movies and did things that were fun for all of us. This resulted in all of us feeling connected and safe with one another and this likely fostered my resilience that followed shortly after I learned of my diagnosis.

This reassured me that others didn’t perceive me as being my diagnosis, but rather something I was experiencing. I was not depression; I was experiencing it and I was able to accomplish my goals, dreams, and aspirations regardless of my mental health labels.

No one with mental health challenges wants to be treated differently or made to feel that they are a ‘problem’ that needs to be fixed. We all have mental health, and our mental health shifts throughout our lives - sometimes we are thriving, and other times we struggle and may receive a diagnosis while we are seeking resources.

A scenario I often hear from parents is that their child or youth is fighting with them, distancing themselves, or saying hurtful things.

Parents, please know that is not a reflection of the type of parent you are and this is a sign that your child needs your unconditional love more than ever. They want to feel heard, hear that they are enough, and that they are loved. For more tips on supporting a loved one, visit foundrybc.ca for resources, tools, and tips for families/caregivers.

A scenario I often hear from youth is that their friend is over sharing and they don’t know what to say.

I often say that the best thing you can do in this case is to listen to your friend, be open with how you feel, and express your concerns for them. If you feel they need to talk to a professional, don’t hesitate to direct your friend to the BC crisis line or if you don’t know what resources are available, connect with an individual or organization that may be able to help your friend. As a friend, it’s not your responsible to be your friend’s therapist, but rather to listen and connect them to additional supports.. For more tips on supporting a peer, visit foundrybc.ca for resources, tools, and tips for friends.

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BC Children's Hospital

This is an agency of Provincial Health Services Authority, providing provincial tertiary mental health services to the citizens of British Columbia. Programs include: Adult Tertiary Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatric Services, Child & Adolescent Mental Health, Women’s Reproductive Mental Health, as well as the Provincial Specialized Eating Disorders Program for children and youth located at the BC Children’s Hospital.

Provincial Health Services Authority

Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) is one of six health authorities – the other five health authorities serve geographic regions of BC.

Ministry of Health

British Columbia Ministry of Health

RBC Children's Mental Health Project

RBC Children’s Mental Health Project is RBC's cornerstone “health and wellness” pillar; RBC Children’s Mental Heath Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues.

BC Children's Hospital Foundation

Through a wide range of fundraising events and opportunities, The BC Children's Hospital Foundation is united with its donors by a single, simple passion - to improve the health and the lives of the young people who enter BC Children's Hospital every day.