It’s no secret that our health care system is overrun, with some saying it has reached a crisis point. For those people relying on the NHS for support it can be full of waiting lists, brief assessments and a general lack of bed-side manner. However, there is hope. Friends and family can aid those who are suffering in taking care of themselves.

There is no better time than the present to engage in self-care. ThinkTwice have a campaign running from 27th Feb – 5th March so check out the hashtag #TakeCare for more ideas, resources and support. Remember, we’re all in this together – decreasing stigma, increasing awareness.

Self-care is so much more than getting your nails done. It’s about empowering people with the confidence and information to look after themselves. When it comes to supporting a friend/family member who is suffering from a mental illness there are loads of things you can do to support them in helping themselves.

The following is a list of different things you do can do/make/buy to support a friend to practice acts of self-care. Be smart about which ones you pick. Think of the person’s illness/ what they are experiencing and make sure it is appropriate for them. Use the #TakeCare to showcase your creations on social media!

‘One–a-day Jar’
Remembering one positive experience a day can help lift your spirits.
Raid your cupboards at home – or someone else’s! – and hunt out an old food or sweet jar. Try and find the biggest one you can. Empty the contents so it is a plain jar. Decorate the outside in whatever way you think your friend/family member would like. You could wrap twine around it, tie a bow out of ribbon or glue a photo of you and them onto it. Create a luggage-style tag and write the following instructions on it – ‘Write down one positive thing every day. Fold it over and place it in this jar. When you’re having a tough day, take one note out, read it and remember that positive experience.’ – To make it extra special you could even buy a nice pen and note paper to go with it.

Bake a (healthy) treat!
Having a healthy diet is important for everyone; it can lift your mood and help regulate your body. Have a search online for healthy snacks – granola bars etc – and get your bake on. By baking a friend/family member a selection of healthy treats can help them feel cared for in many ways. It shows you care by taking the time to bake rather than buy a gift. When they eat one, it is a healthier option rather than what they might have had instead which shows self-care to themselves. Even if they don’t eat them, don’t be offended – it still shows you care and they can always offer a visiting friend a treat!

Basket of daily goodies 

When you’re not well and experiencing a mental health illness it can be hard to simply do the daily tasks of looking after yourself. This can range from brushing your teeth to getting some exercise. Create a basket of goodies that can help with these tasks. Fill it with lush smelling shower gels, bubble bath, hair care products and even tooth paste. You could add to it by printing off a map of the local area and highlighting simple walks they could go on for some exercise – even offering to go with them.

These are just a few ideas so have a think of your friend/family member and see if you can think of anymore. Look out for additional ideas from Thinktwice and #TakeCare.

Supporting a friend/family member who suffers from a mental illness, short or long term, can be hard work so look after yourself too. Remember, there is hope and they will get better.

Liz Edge is a freelance youth worker based in Dorset.