We all want to be there for our friends, and even more so when they are going through a difficult time in their lives, but sometimes it isn’t easy when a close friend or someone we care about a lot has a mental health problem. You may feel worried or concerned about them, or you may find it difficult to know what to say, or what you can do to make them feel better.
Friendship is so important for our wellbeing and overall happiness and as such friends can really help in helping someone recover from mental ill-health. Those suffering can feel very alone, sometimes as a result of the condition itself and sometimes because of the perceived stigma and their fear of telling anyone how they feel. The first thing to do is to make sure that they know that you are there for them. Just the simple thing of letting your friend know that they can come round at any time for a cup of tea can really make a huge difference to someone feeling isolated and insecure.
- Be a good listener but don’t try to be their therapist
Although this is often done with the best intentions it’s really important that you don’t try to be their therapist. You don’t need to give advice; what your friend needs from you right now is to be their friend so be the best listener that you can.
- Let them know you are there for them in the way they need you to be
If you are struggling to know how to help your friend, why not just ask them ‘How can I best support you right now?’ Perhaps your friend would like you to go with them to appointments. Perhaps they’d like help with daily tasks like shopping or perhaps they’d just like a coffee and a chat. Let them know you’re there for them in whatever way they need; it’s all too easy to give the help that we think we would want in that situation.
- Don’t treat them differently
Your friend will really appreciate it if you continue to treat them in the way you did before they started having problems. If you used to joke around together then continue to do it! You could also suggest going out and doing some activities that you have always done together. And if they say no ask again, not straight away and certainly without any pressure, but don’t make the assumption that tomorrow or next week they will feel the same. One day it will start to turn around.
- Don’t take it personally if they’re not up for hanging out
Sometimes your friend won’t be up for hanging out and there won’t really be an explanation. It’s important not to be upset by this or take it personally. It doesn’t mean your friend doesn’t care about you, it’s just that being sociable can be very difficult when experiencing a mental health problem. Your friend may well appreciate still being invited to social events, even if they don’t feel up to going.
- Look after your own mental health
This is a really important one. Unless you continue to look after your own mental health you won’t be in a fit state to help your friend or anyone else with theirs. Continue to practise self-care and to do things you enjoy. If you find yourself worrying constantly about your friend and this is affecting your daily life and sleep, it is a good idea to speak to a professional.
We hope this article has been helpful. If you have any questions or if you’d like to speak to a member of our team, please do get in touch! You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org