I want to share with you tips and strategies that I developed in my own life when I had to sit down and have that ‘I think you got a problem’ chat with others who were close to me. Here’s the very first thing that I think is super important before we even consider sitting down with someone and having a bit of a chat with them. We need to consider in terms of these new behaviours, reactions and emotions that they’re displaying now, are they different now from how they used to be before?

If it’s not, then actually we might not have a problem they might just be a bit quirky and a bit odd. One of the things that I found so difficult with my mom (who had a rare form of dementia) is that she’d always been a bit odd. She was definitely an eccentric so when she became crazier it was really not easy to articulate the change that had occurred because the psychologists, doctor and neuropsychologist had all seen her and had asked if she had been liked this before and the difficult thing was that I was saying ‘kinda yeah, but this is an extra level of crazy’.

If you notice that the person you’re concerned about has changed that there has been a notable change in how they are thinking, how they are behaving or how they are feeling then we’ve got grounds to proceed. If it’s not those things maybe they’re not the one with the problem maybe it’s you, maybe, it’s your thinking that has changed about them but not necessarily them that’s changed and sometimes that happens in life. Sometimes we have a relationship with someone and the stuff that never used to bother us about them suddenly starts really annoying us and then it suddenly seems like they’re annoying us on purpose but they’re not, they’ve always been that way.

It may be that your tolerance levels have changed so we need to work on our own problems with our own tolerance levels and decide whether or not we still want this person in our life. When the change has happened in the other person and it is having a significant impact on how they are thinking behaving or feeling then we need to start thinking about sitting down with them having a conversation and saying ‘I think there might be a problem here’ and having a look at it together.

How do we actually approach this interaction with them and have this further conversation with them?

My first suggestion is that no matter whether this is an employee or a family member you start by keeping notes you’re going to have to start keeping some evidence because if this is a relative that you’re concerned about and you’re going to end up being the person who accompanies them to the doctors at some stage and to be able to have some history around when this has started and what’s been happening and what sorts of incidents you’ve noticed, this is going to serve them very well in getting the correct treatment and care.

One of the things that happened with my mum was that she started to be really rude towards talking to people she didn’t even know and she would get defensive if I pointed out how rude she was to that person. Sometimes we have to piss people off in order to get the right thing for them, you know, in order to get them back on the right track you can’t go into this helping someone’s business and still hope to be liked because the two things do not necessarily go together where possible I would suggest using the softening phrases “I feel so, it feels like” you are taking responsibility for the bits about them that you know are not okay.

The other thing that is really useful to do which the police do all the time when they interview a suspect, they tell them it is just to rule them out of their enquiries so that phrasing around ‘this is to rule out anything else’ is something that I have learned to use a lot both with my mom and with clients who need extra treatment and care.

The most important thing that I can tell you is t be brave as it is a thankless job to undertake and it can also be incredibly stressful because you might see what is best for them but they may not see it for themselves. It might feel as if you’re kind of going at it alone in some ways but when you do get them on the right track when they do get access to the help or the treatment that they need then you can give yourself a pat on the back. 

Sometimes people are not going to accept or acknowledge that there is a problem, all you can do is offer tea and sympathy and continue to support where you can but as long as you know that you’ve done your best to resolve the problem that you’ve done your best to address the problem and to point them in the right direction sometimes that’s the best that you can do.

These are my tips for flagging up with someone else that there may be something going a little bit astray with their mental well-being as a final note don’t underestimate the impact that things like stress, anxiety and depression can have on a person. Some things that might seem to be much more severe mental health issues actually just boil down to either stress, anxiety or depression or a combination of the three of them in some way and these can really change a person’s personality and they are recoverable so where you can support people in accessing the treatment that they need getting on the right path so that they can begin to live a healthier, happier life going forward with your assistance there by their side.


By Gemma Bailey