Stress and supporting someone's mental health

White curve
Mental health awareness

We all have mental health in the same way as we have physical health, and our mental health can fluctuate along a continuum depending on the challenges and opportunities we experience in life. At times someone may feel they are thriving and at other times they may feel they are just surviving, struggling or worse, in crisis.

How might you spot signals that someone may be struggling with too much stress or a mental health problem? What simple yet powerful actions could you take?

In this video session, Dean Capon explores mental health, stress and resilience, and teaches you the signals to look out for if someone is struggling and the actions you can take to support them.

Scroll down to read the content broken down by section.

young men talking casually at desk in open plan office
What is mental health? (05:43)

The World Health Organisation define mental health as - Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

We all have ‘mental health’, in the same way as we all have physical health and our mental health can fluctuate along a continuum depended on the challenges and opportunities we are experiencing in life. At times in our lives we may feel we are Thriving and even Excelling and at other times we may feel we are Surviving or sometimes Struggling. What we want to try and avoid is feeling we have reached Crisis where we're very anxious, very depressed, maybe missing work, feeling completely exhausted not sleeping and even maybe losing weight.

About one in four of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives.

Proactively checking in with yourself on a regular basis and asking yourself: “How am I doing today?” can be very valuable in understanding where you are on that continuum and what you might do to move you into good mental health.

Stress and resilience (10:17)

We need a certain amount of stress to perform well, otherwise we can become bored or stuck on our comfort-zone. We need the right amount of stress and pressure in order to stretch ourselves and to perform optimally. However if stress is persistent and intense we can start to feel strain and if prolonged and intense, even feel like we are burning out. Symptoms of high stress might include: a racing heart; excessive sweating; breathing rapidly; feeling tense; irritable or guilty; finding it harder to make decisions or finding it harder to sleep.

Stress is not a mental health condition but if it's intense and persistent it may actually lead to experiencing a mental health problems.

Our resilience can be an antidote to our stress. Resilience is: our ability to manage or tolerate ‘ordinary’ distress, including disappointment and failure; the way we normalise difficult feelings and being able to see beyond them; our ability to access and have confidence in your own resources to help you cope.

Our levels of our resilience can change depending on the actions we take. Having regular breaks, connecting with other people, eating well, sleeping well, exercising (and other healthy coping strategies) can increase our levels of resilience and increase our tolerance to our stress.

Signals that someone might be struggling? (19:44)

It can be hard to notice signals that someone you know may be struggling with their mental health (and particularly challenging when we are now interacting in the virtual world so much). People are a bit like icebergs; we just see what’s above the waterline but there is so much more going on under the surface we don't see.

Signs to look out for that someone may be struggling (that may develop slowly over time or quite quickly): not getting things done – missing deadlines or forgetting tasks; irritability, aggression, tearfulness; generalised anxiety or worry; indecision; loss of confidence; taking on too much work; volunteering for every new project; tiredness; headaches; lack of care over appearance; being run down; changes in language they use (negative/self critical); changes in their tone of voice.

Actions you might take if someone is struggling? (21:52)

Some simple and powerful actions you might take, if you feel confident enough and you feel it is appropriate to do so are:

ASK the person if they are OK? We often ask this in everyday exchanges so you may have to ask them more than once: “Are you really OK?” This may encourage the person to open up to you.

LISTEN – one of the most beautiful gifts we can give another person is to just listen; actively listen. We can be tempted to jump into solutions-mode and offer advice and share what we might do. Sometimes all someone needs is the space to be and share. 

SUGGEST – if you do think it’s appropriate to suggest actions the individual may take, in order to maintain or improve their mental health, then one of the best frameworks to use is NHS the 5 ways to wellbeing:

  • Connect with others – to build a sense of belonging and emotional support
  • Give to others – to create positive feelings and sense of reward
  • Be active – to create chemical changes in the brain which can boost self-esteem
  • Keep learning – helping build a sense of purpose and self-confidence
  • Take notice – being mindful of thoughts, feelings and body sensations in the present moment

SIGNPOST – if you don't feel confident suggesting actions to someone who may be struggling, then signposting them to relevant resources and or organisations who support mental health may be life changing. Please see our Get help now page view information on how to find direct support. 

SELF-CARE – one of the most important things you can do to support the mental wellbeing of others is to invest time and energy in looking after your own mental health!

Resources

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Wellbeing Challenge 2021 school pack

Lesson plan and activities based on the five ways to wellbeing

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Wellbeing Challenge 2021 home pack

Activities for parents and carers to print off and do with their children at home

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Advancing the mental health and wellbeing agenda

A guide to help senior leaders put in place measures to ensure that workplaces are mentally healthy

View resource
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An emotionally healthy approach to GCSEs - A guide for parents

Packed with practical tips and ideas to support young people before, during and after exam time.

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An emotionally healthy approach to GCSEs - A guide for teachers

Packed with practical tips and ideas to support young people before, during and after exam time.

View resource
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Asking for help

Tips for young people on when it’s time to talk about their mental health, or if they want to help a friend

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Coping with self-harm

This guide includes information on the nature and causes of self-harm and how to support a young person for parents and carers

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Coping with self-harm (Welsh)

This Welsh language guide includes information on the nature and causes of self-harm and how to support a young person for parents and carers.

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Coronavirus: guide for line managers

A guide to help employers support staff mental health during Covid-19.

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Coronavirus: Quick tips for Line Managers

Tips to help line managers protect their staff’s mental health when working from home

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Depression booklet

Featuring useful facts, figures and information, this booklet also contains sources of help and what not to say to people experiencing depression

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Five Ways to Wellbeing posters

Five posters - one for each of the Five Ways to Wellbeing: connect, give, learn, be active, take notice

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Guide to depression for parents and carers

This booklet aims to help recognise and understand depression and how to get appropriate help for their child

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Guide to depression for parents and carers (Welsh)

This booklet aims to help parents recognise and understand depression and how to get appropriate help for their child

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Life after lockdown Wellbeing Action Plan

During the coronavirus pandemic, we have all been through enormous change and some of us may experience further uncertainty and change in the coming weeks and months

View resource
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Looking after yourself during your GCSEs - A guide for pupils

Packed with practical tips and ideas to support young people before, during and after exam time.

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Low mood poster

Poster created in partnership with Bank Workers Charity highlighting common causes of low mood, how to help yourself feel better and information on where to get more help.

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Patent and trade mark professionals

Protecting your mental health and wellbeing: A guide for patent and trade mark professionals

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Perfectionism

Aiming high can sometimes come at a cost. This eight page guide looks at ‘unhealthy perfectionism’ – how to spot it and advice on how to develop effective interventions.

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Social media and teenagers

A practical guide for parents and carers of teenagers on using social media

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Starting University

This guide offers tips and guidance on how to get the best out of your time at university and maintain good mental health.

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Students Against Depression posters

Posters to be displayed in Higher and Further Education areas

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Supervision in education

Ten top tips for setting up staff supervision groups in schools

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Supporting a child with anxiety

A guide for parents and carers to help understand anxiety more clearly and begin to address it.

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Supporting children returning to school (parents & carers)

Guidance for parents and carers on how to help your child prepare to go back to school

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Supporting children returning to school (teachers)

Guidance for school staff on how to comfort primary school pupils while maintaining social distancing

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Taking care of your mental health for occupational health practitioners

This resource for occupational health practitioners suggests ways for you to take time out of your day to focus on yourself in order to stay healthy and stress-free.

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Talking about suicide

A guide for college staff developed in partnership with the Association of Colleges

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Top Tips For Students

A booklet giving tips on how students can look after their mental health.

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Warning signs poster

A bold A3 poster showing the warning signs that tell you when someone may be depressed. This poster could save a life.

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Wellbeing Action Plan (aged 16+)

Our new Wellbeing Action Plan is for all young people attending sixth form or college.

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Wellbeing Action Plan (child)

A simple, resource to help young people keep themselves well and get them through difficult times

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Work from home wellbeing action plan

This is a personalised, practical tool that we can all use whether or not we have a mental health issue. There are sections for you to complete, including a positive daily plan.

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Young people who self-harm

Developed by researchers at the University of Oxford, this guide includes information on the nature and causes of self-harm and how to support a young person for school staff.

View resource

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