Mental Health - What to say when you're not sure what to say.


Like any other health problem, someone with a mental illness needs extra love and support. You may not be able to see the illness, but it doesn’t mean that you’re powerless to help.

If someone you know is suffering from a mental health issue like anxiety or depression it can be hard to find the right way to show you care. There has been a lot of progress, but it's still something many of us find difficult to talk about openly and honestly. Those who are battling a mental illness are often afraid to speak out.

Meanwhile, if you know someone who is suffering, you may find it hard to approach the subject with them. There are lots a ways to reach out though and make sure that the person knows that you're there for them. A text or social media message is always nice and is a quick and easy way to stay in touch. But a greeting card can help you when you may be struggling to find the right things to say. Experts say receiving a hand written card can have a more positive impact on a person's recovery.

The findings of Mindlab, confirmed that greeting cards really do increase the sense of well-being. “There are two big killers in the UK that often do not get the profile they deserve,” says Dr Lynda Shaw "Isolationism and depression.” Often the two are linked and, as she succinctly points out, the receiving of a greeting card can alleviate both of these conditions.

“The psychology of greeting cards has a lot to do with self-esteem and self-worth. Simply put, if you receive one, you feel better. Time is the most precious gift anyone can give. So, if someone spends time choosing, writing then giving or posting a greeting card, the recipient knows they have been given some of the sender’s precious time,” points out Dr Shaw. In today’s hectic society, there is more merit than ever in engaging the power of greeting cards and hand-written messages.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists' back this theory too. Their research shows that people who are unwell with mental health problems receive far fewer cards or messages of support than people with physical health problems, but a College survey shows that 8 out 10 service users say that receiving a card would improve their recovery. However, patients rarely receive cards or flowers when they stay in a mental health unit.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists said cards and gifts were a simple way to support people with mental illness. The college even said it may aid their recovery. It made the plea after carrying out a poll of mental health patients, which showed over half did not receive any gifts or cards when they were ill. This compared with just a third who did not get presents the last time they were physically ill.

Dr Peter Byrne, chair of the college's education committee, said: "I have worked in general and psychiatric hospitals for over 20 years, and there is no greater demonstration of the hidden prejudice against people with mental illness than the bedside lockers. In psychiatric units, there is barely a card or any other reminder that the outside world cares. People often don't know what to do or say when a friend or relative is ill with a mental health problem - so they end up doing nothing." 

So the message is simple. Demonstrating our empathy and support to those affected is important and appreciated. It's time to open up about mental health, start the conversations and lose the stigma. 


1 comment

  • sarah

    read your blog with interest as mental health is something close to my heart and mind. I suffer with both depression and anxiety having been diagnosed back in 2009 when I was very ill. I was lucky to get help via work and had wonderful support through my family. I now know how to recognise the signs and am able to cope alot better. When poorly I got some great books and cards which I still have and use to motivate me and keep me upbeat. At the time I got them they helped immensely and boosted me on bad days.

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