Often when a friend tells us that they are feeling a bit down, or have recently been diagnosed with a mental health issue, it’s difficult to know what to say or do. It’s an automatic reaction to panic, and avoid talking about the issue. However that friend will often have confided in you for a reason – they trust you, and want you to support them with how they are feeling, even if only in a small way.
It’s important to remember that to support a friend who is struggling, you do not need to be on call 24/7, or do anything extraordinary. Often a simple “how are you feeling today?” is enough for someone to feel like you care. Make sure to take the time to actually listen to their answer, rather than asking for the sake of it! It only takes a few minutes to ask, but it can make the world of a difference to someone with a mental health problem. Many mental health issues make the person feel like they are unloved and unwanted – asking them how they are, and taking an interest in their life can help to prove to them that they are not alone.
Remember that they might not always respond to your text, or they might cancel plans last minute. This doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk or hang out with you – it’s simply often a case of them feeling really down, or having an anxiety attack for example. Be patient, and don’t take it to heart. People with mental health problems often tend to isolate themselves, but this nearly always makes them feel even worse. Make sure and invite them to all the social stuff you would normally go to together, even if you think they won’t come.
It can sometimes be helpful to find out a little about the symptoms of what your friend is experiencing. A quick online search of symptoms can often help to allow you to empathise with how your friend is feeling. Putting yourself in their shoes means you get a glimpse into their life. This often allows you to understand how important it is to be there to support your friend.
It can sometimes be useful for you to find out what services are available to help your friend. They may need support taking that first step to get help, so simply mentioning the help they can get can give them that extra boost to take the first step. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy – you could simply mention when asking how they are feeling that there is counselling available through your school or college, for example, and they should keep it in mind if they feel like they need it.
Remember, you do not have to do anything extraordinary or difficult to support a friend with mental health problems. Simply being there for them, and listening to what they have to say is the most important thing you can do to help them in their recovery.