Becoming a better support system for people struggling with mental health

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During a time when many people are struggling with mental health problems, it is important to know how to become a strong support system to help your friends and family members navigate these difficulties.  

Jessi Beyer is a speaker, mental health advocate and the No. 1 bestselling author of “How to Heal: A Practical Guide to Nine Natural Therapies You Can Use to Release Your Trauma.” Photo courtesy of JessiBeyerInternation website.

Jessi Beyer is a speaker, mental health advocate and the No. 1 bestselling author of “How to Heal: A Practical Guide to Nine Natural Therapies You Can Use to Release Your Trauma.” In her book, Beyer draws upon her own experiences as a trauma and mental illness survivor, research from published papers and expert interviews with therapists to present readers with alternative ways to talk therapy. 

She recently hosted a workshop for the UConn community titled “How to Safely and Successfully Support Someone Struggling with Their Mental Health” discussing these alternative therapy methods, in addition to various strategies that focused on how to offer support to someone struggling with their mental health.   

“Your role as a friend or family member … is not really to give them advice on how to heal, that’s more of the therapist’s job,” Beyer said. “Your job is to be there for them and love them and support them and sit with them throughout that whole journey.” 

Beyer led participants through a three-step process to providing help that focused on what not to say versus what to say and different types of resources you can suggest. Throughout the workshop, Beyer emphasized the importance of allowing people to heal at their own rate and focusing on validating their feelings and emotions, rather than simply saying, “It’s going to be okay.” 

““Your job is not to give them any sort of timeline … your job is to allow them to feel their pain and heal from their struggles as long as they need to and just be there to support them throughout that process,”

Jessi Beyer, Mental Health Advocate and Speaker

“Your job is not to give them any sort of timeline … your job is to allow them to feel their pain and heal from their struggles as long as they need to and just be there to support them throughout that process,” Beyer said. 

Beyer shared how many people who are struggling with their mental health want to be seen and heard, instead of people who are unqualified to do so suggesting healing methods or brushing off their struggles. By validating someone’s emotions, you allow them to feel what they are going through doesn’t make them different, out of control or “crazy,” which is how Beyer said she sometimes felt while dealing with her own mental health struggles. Instead, it creates a safe space that allows them to know it is okay to be angry, confused, sad or whatever they are feeling. 

“That takes so much pressure and shame off of that person’s shoulders and allows them to redirect that energy into the healing journey,” Beyer said.  

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When offering support to someone who is struggling with mental illness, it is important to not gaslight their emotions or make them feel like their emotions or response are invalidated. By offering a safe space to reflect and talk with one another, without judgement is a great way to offer support. Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

The healing journey can be filled with difficult and painful memories and emotions that can become out of hand if people do not have a stable support system. Another way to help normalize these mental health struggles is to treat the person the way you would if you didn’t know what they are going through. 

“By treating them as normally as possible … you allow them to retain a sense of normalcy in their life during a period that feels incredibly abnormal for them,” Beyer said. 

To conclude the workshop, Beyer discussed the various methods you can suggest to someone who might not be interested in traditional talk therapy. This included craniosacral therapy, mindfulness and meditation, dance movement therapy, trauma-sensitive yoga, canine-assisted therapy and ecotherapy. All of these methods are a great alternative and show healing can be done in many different ways. Finding what is right for an individual struggling with mental health is an important step in the healing process. 

“Everyone needs to process their own struggles at their own rate,” Beyer said. “Everyone is on their own healing journey and it’s not really a journey that you get to dictate the pace of.” 

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a mental health advocate and how to provide a strong support system to a friend or family member who is struggling with their mental health, Beyer is hosting another mental health and empowerment workshop later this month.  

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