Support someone after the first appointment
It can be a relief to make it through the first appointment. Once you have a diagnosis and treatment plan, it’s important to be realistic about what the next steps look like. It can help to acknowledge this is the beginning of the recovery process, not the end.
Continue to be involved in the treatment process
Talk to the person about how you’ll be involved after the first appointment. This could include:
- attending future appointments with them
- driving them to appointments
- helping them remember their appointments.
It’s helpful to show your support. If you attend appointments with them, make the most of the opportunity to ask questions and provide relevant information.
Communicating with mental health professionals
Talk to the person’s mental health professional about the best way for you to stay informed. Make sure you know who to contact in an emergency.
Some health professionals may be happy for you to email your questions or to make a separate time for you to talk with them about your concerns.
Many health professionals welcome talking to the support person. However, some mental health professionals may be unwilling to provide information about the treatment of the person you support, even with their consent.
Remember that they’re also trying to help the person you support. Being angry and blaming them for what has happened won’t solve the problem. Try to work together as a team with the health professional to be more helpful and productive.
Learn about anxiety and depression
There may be times when everything feels overwhelming and when the symptoms, behaviour and challenges seem relentless.
One way to manage these feelings is to learn more about what’s happening, why it’s happening and what to do next.
We have evidence-based information resources you can use to educate yourself. Start your journey here:
Keep track of how things are going
One important part of being a support person can be to monitor how things are going. This might include:
- how the person is progressing in their recovery
- how you’re working together as a team
- your confidence about understanding what’s happening.
Below are a few ideas from others who have supported someone with a mental health condition.
1. Keep a diary or journal
Write notes in a diary or journal each day about progress, issues and symptoms.
2. Use a rating system
You and the person you’re supporting can use a rating system to rate how they’re going each day. It may be as simple as using a scale of 1 to 10 – with 1 being a very bad day and 10 being excellent.
The ratings can be a useful record of improvements and a guide as to what you both see as a good or not-so-good day. You’ll be able to reflect on the days when things ran smoothly and work towards having more of those days. It will also be a handy tool to have when you each have different ratings. You may want to talk about why you saw things differently.
3. Make a schedule of medications
Record the schedule of medications and track, list and discuss side-effects. This may be helpful for the doctor who may not see all of the side-effects during an appointment.
Remember to talk about other things
It’s important to talk about other things besides the mental health condition, so it doesn’t become the focal point of your life and relationship.
Talk about things that are happening, both in your world and more broadly. The person you support may not be interested or able to engage completely with this, but it’s essential that they have some awareness of other things happening in their social and professional communities.
You may try to encourage the person to participate in a small activity each day – a short walk, helping to prepare a meal, reading or listening to music.
It can be hard to keep going when the person you support is not able to get much enjoyment or pleasure from anything, but it can be helpful.
Support someone who wants to stop treatment
Sometimes, the person may say they’re better. They feel well and don’t need to take medication or see the mental health professional anymore.
If this happens, remind the person that they should talk to the professional about their decision.
Any changes to medication should be made by the GP or treating team. The person should never change or stop taking their medication without consulting a doctor. If a person suddenly stops taking certain medications, it can cause withdrawal symptoms which can be unpleasant and difficult to manage.