How to Help a Friend with Mental Health Challenges

5 things you can do to support a friend with mental health challenges. And 4 things you don’t have to do. 

Everyone knows how to take care of a friend who has the flu or a sprained ankle; but what do you do if she says she is depressed, stressed, or not acting like herself? 

While it can be very scary, confusing, or awkward when a loved one has a mental illness, all the more we need to give our extra love and support. Research has confirmed that support from family and friends is a key part of helping someone who is going through a mental illness. Not sure what to do? Below are some ways you can be a good friend to someone who is struggling:

  1. Listen without making judgements. 

People who are going through difficult circumstances most likely feel very alone, so just having a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on can already be a tremendous help. You don’t have to pretend you feel the same way as your friend; just saying “That sounds hard” is already enough because it conveys to your friend that you are validating her feelings, and that what she is going through is not an overreaction. 

  1. Ask how you can help. 

Sometimes help can be in the form of taking on extra tasks on your friend’s behalf, or offering solutions to the problem. But if you don’t know exactly what she needs, don’t hesitate to ask. It shows you care and takes the guesswork away.  Another way to help would be to encourage her to seek professional advice, or, if she is not yet ready, refer her to practical information or resources online.

  1. Understand her limitations. 

If your friend is angry with someone, don’t push her to make amends right away If she is depressed, don’t expect her to go out with you every time you invite her. Give her time and space to sort through her feelings, but check in every once in awhile to make sure that the emotions do not escalate into something more negative.

  1. Don’t gossip. 

People are afraid to open up about their mental health problems because they worry that others might begin to regard them in a negative light. So if a friend confides in you, respect her trust and keep the conversation between yourselves. However, if she starts talking about committing dangerous acts or inflicting self-harm, consult a family member or a professional immediately. 

  1. Offer distractions. 

Listening and offering advice is good, but you don’t have to talk about her mental health every time you are together. Share what is going on with your life, talk about something you’re both interested in, or do other fun and energizing activities together to take her mind off her problems. 

Things you DON’T have to do:

Resist the urge, however, to be wholly responsible for your friend’s mental health condition. When supporting someone who is going through a difficult time, here are some things you are not obliged to do: 

  1. Be available 24/7
  2. Put yourself in danger to watch over your friend
  3. Feel guilty if things are going well for you
  4. Stay in the relationship if it is no longer working for you

Always remember that your own health and well-being should come first. If your friend’s condition is too much for you to handle, or if she is threatening to commit suicide or harming someone else, the best thing would be for you to take a step back and refer her to a mental health professional help right away. 

MINDNATION IS HERE

Does your friend need someone to speak to? Feel free to message our Facebook Page for 24/7 Social Conversations with friends that are available for you anytime. We’re here to listen! It’s completely free and absolutely confidential. http://facebook.com/themindnation

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