Search and rescue friends and family - how to support someone's mental wellbeing

A guide for friends and family of search and rescue service personnel on how to support someone's mental wellbeing.

Your stories

What is mental health and mental wellbeing?

Taryn blogs about mental health and wellbeing. What do they mean to you?

Taryn Ozorio
Posted on 24/01/2011

Vanessa's* story

I’ve been a search and rescue technician for just over 6 months. I joined the search and rescue team because I wanted to help people. I also wanted to learn new skills and challenge myself. 

I developed depression due to abuse I experienced in the past. I ended up needing to take some time off work, and sought help through counselling. My then-husband would always want to know what I discussed with the counsellor, and his constant questioning would often leave me feeling more depressed.

When I went back to work, I was still taking anti-depressants and my employers knew about this. One of my colleagues made me very anxious, and it got so bad that I would start to panic and feel sick and very faint when he was in the same room as me. My employers were not very supportive, and made me feel like I was being punished for how he made me feel, and for my depression. In the end I needed to be signed off work for six weeks because of the effect this had on my mental health.

My new partner has had to learn to deal with my mental health. For example, if things got too much for me, I would leave the house suddenly without telling him, and he would often find me hitting a wall, fence or lamppost. When this happened, he would give me a hug and say that things would be okay.

He never questioned me as to why I did what I did; he let me tell him when I was ready.

I remember having a long chat through a door one night because I just wanted to be on my own. He sat on the other side of the door, talking to me, and waited for me to want to come out.

Knowing I have my husband’s support is so helpful. He knows I still suffer from bouts of depression, and he is there when I am ready to talk. He never pushes me for answers and he never questions how I am feeling or tells me to “pull myself up”.

In terms of managing my day-to-day mental wellbeing, I find that writing down my feelings helps, even if I then destroy what I’ve written. The act of getting it out of my mind helps me feel calm, and make sense of what I am feeling.

I also try to find 10 to 15 minutes every day for some ‘me time’, and maybe try to do something I enjoy, if only for a little while.

If you notice you are not acting like yourself, I would suggest seeking help by getting in touch with your doctor, or finding some kind of counselling. If you feel comfortable, you could also speak to your manager just to let them know you are struggling with things. If you feel really desperate, you can call the Samaritans, who are there to listen 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

If you’re a friend or family member of someone who experiences a mental health problem, I know it must be hard to watch someone you love going through hell. But for the person experiencing the mental health problem, just knowing that they have someone who is there to support them and be there with a kind and caring word when they need it is so important.


*Individual’s name has been changed to protect their privacy.

This information was published in January 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

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