Get started
What we treat
Why online therapy
How it works
How it works
Meet the therapists
Wellbeing blog
Log in
Read our latest blog

When to intervene if you’re worried about a loved one’s mental health

September 25, 2023

Have you noticed a change in a friend or family member’s behaviour or mindset? Maybe they’re isolating themselves, worrying more than usual or acting erratically. You may suspect that they’re experiencing mental health difficulties but feel unsure about what to do or whether to intervene. Here are some tips on how you can support them:

Get to know the signs

Mental health conditions are complex and can take many different forms. When someone in your life seems troubled, the most important thing you can do is to make them feel supported, but it can also be helpful to get to know the symptoms so you know what to look for. Two of the most common conditions that people suffer from are anxiety and depression, but you can find a more extensive list here.

Remember, a diagnosis should only be made by a mental health professional as mental health will impact everyone differently.

Common symptoms of anxiety

  • Feeling like you can’t stop worrying, or that bad things will happen if you stop worrying
  • Having a sense of looming danger, panic or doom
  • Feeling tense, nervous or unable to relax
  • Being unable to enjoy leisure time, such as time off work, holidays or hanging out with friends
  • Struggling to concentrate
  • Difficulty sleeping

Anxiety can also cause physical symptoms, like shallow or rapid breathing, a fast, thumping or irregular heartbeat, trembling or muscle tension. Read our full list of symptoms here.

Common symptoms of depression

  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt – fixating on past failures or self-blaming
  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, or suicide attempts
  • Struggling with motivation or having no energy to do what you used to enjoy doing

Like with anxiety, there are also physical symptoms, like fatigue, tiredness, restlessness, unexplained aches and pains and changes to your menstrual cycle. Read our full list of symptoms here.

Be there for them  

You don’t have to be an expert in mental health to help. Just letting the person know that they can talk to you is so important. Even if they’re not ready to open up, they will be pleased to know that you’re looking out for them and they have the option to confide in someone.

If they do want to talk, listen to what they’re saying and give them the time to explain themselves fully, but don’t pressure them to share more than they’re willing to. Remain open-minded and non-judgemental when they’re telling you about their experience. They may have some symptoms that they’re ashamed of and it’s important that they feel able to talk about them in a safe space.

Encourage self-care

When someone is going through a difficult time, it’s extra important that they take good care of themselves. In addition to implementing healthy habits, like getting a good night’s sleep and eating well, they should also make time to de-stress.

You could encourage this by suggesting a self-care activity you can do together, like going for a long walk, a swim or having a film night. If you’re unsure how they’d prefer to relax, ask them. Starting a conversation around this might prompt them to think of ideas and make self-care a priority.

Every individual goes through their own journey and, sometimes, they can find it hard to engage in self-care activities because of their mental health. Simply being present and supporting them with where they’re at can help  

Suggest professional help if needed

There are different reasons that people might be reluctant to get help - they might not realise they need help, or they could be worried about getting a diagnosis. If this is the case, perhaps you could offer to go to an appointment with them so they feel less alone.

You could also look into what support is available for them. Perhaps you could send them relevant articles written by mental health experts, or find support groups or local therapy sessions. Most importantly, let them know that it’s okay to seek help from a mental health professional and there’s nothing to be ashamed of; let them take next steps at their own pace.

At ieso, we offer online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for a range of common mental health problems. Our service is free for NHS patients - you can find out if you’re eligible here.

Take care of your own mental well-being

Supporting someone with a mental health problem can take its toll. Remember to take care of yourself and set your own boundaries, giving yourself time to rest and process the situation. You may also want to suggest that the person leans on other friends, family members or a health professional for support, so that you’re not the only one they’re relying on.

Know what to do in an emergency

Sometimes, people with mental health difficulties have a crisis, like feeling suicidal or losing touch with reality. Although this can be scary, it’s really important that you try to stay calm. Here’s what to do if you’re in this situation:

  • Listen to what they’re saying and make them feel heard
  • Ask them what would help them to feel better
  • Ask if there’s someone you can contact for them
  • Avoid confrontation or conflict
  • Encourage them to seek professional help
  • If they are feeling suicidal, call 999 or 111. They can also call Samaritans for free on 116 123.

A note from our clinical team

“Everyone’s experience of mental health problems are different, but it’s important for them to feel heard and to know that someone is there to support them,” says Clinical Outcomes Manager, Michelle Sherman.

“Supporting someone does not mean we can ‘fix’ the problem or make them get help. Remember to put yourself first. Easier said than done but it is the most helpful thing you can do. The healthier you are, the more able you will be to offer support.”

Additional helplines:

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) - 0800 58 58 58

Papyrus Young Suicide Prevention - 0800 068 4141

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.
Awareness Days
6 Mins
October 9, 2023

Mental health affects us all. This means it's essential that mental health services are equally available to everyone, everywhere. This World Mental Health Day, 10th October, we explore the right to access care.

Awareness Days
5 mins
October 2, 2023

This week is National Work Life Week, a campaign led by the charity, Working Families, to get people talking about wellbeing at work and work-life balance.

Online CBT
8 Mins
September 25, 2023

Have you noticed a change in a friend or family member’s behaviour or mindset? Maybe they’re isolating themselves, worrying more than usual or acting erratically. Here are some tips on how you can support them.