Supporting A Friend With Mental Health Issues
Despite a reduction in the stigma around it, there is still no shortage of mental health struggles and mental health conditions.
Worldwide, depression is the leading cause of disability. In the US, nearly 1 in 5 adults struggles with a mental illness.
How can I support a loved one who is struggling with their mental health? is a question often asked. With multiple crises we are currently living through, it is feeling like a lot more people are in pain.
Perhaps your friend or family member has been struggling with anxiety lately, and you might be noticing some changes in their behavior and demeanor. If this is the case, it is a sign that they might really need some support.
Here, we look at what you can do to support a friend with mental health struggles.
Listen to and acknowledge their issues
If someone close to you is experiencing a difficult time, it can be hard not to jump in and help. Let them take their time and gauge how they would like for you to offer support.
Open-ended questions work well when talking to someone, especially when you are asking about their life situation. These types of questions are helpful in getting a better understanding of what they are going through.
Whenever you get a response, say supportive or affirming things that can help them feel heard.
Many people who struggle with their mental health may often blame or judge themselves about what they are going through. Some may feel that their struggles are not valid because they are mental rather than physical.
It can be hard to understand or relate to someone else’s feelings. However, it may be important to let your loved one know that they are doing a good job and you are proud of them.
Ask them what they want you to do
Rather than assuming what would be beneficial to your loved one, ask them directly: “How can I support you?” or “What would be beneficial to you right now?” Remember that everyone’s definition of support is different, and what you need when you are struggling may not be the same as what someone else requires when they are going through a difficult period. For some people, it might just be continuing to be a shoulder to cry on. For others, it may entail you arranging support from Sunshine Behavioral Health.
Offer support with everyday tasks
Many people who are dealing with mental health issues may find it extremely difficult to make fundamental decisions or complete even seemingly little tasks. Other than saying, “I am here if you need me,” be precise about what you are offering so your friend does not have to worry about reaching out or figuring out what they need in the first place.
If you pay them a visit, have a look around and see what they need help with, such as dishwashing, weeding, vacuuming, or folding laundry. If you speak with them, offer to drive them to a doctor’s appointment or to run them to the shop or make them some meals.
Celebrate the small achievements
Every day might be difficult for someone who is battling with their mental health. So congratulate them on their achievements and successes. This can help them feel more empowered and capable. Thanking them for being so open and vulnerable with you, or complimenting them on going to work or walking their dog on a daily basis, are examples of this.
Do explore what they are struggling with
You can also relieve them of another significant burden: having to educate you about mental illness. Instead, study more about what they are going through — for example, read more about depression, panic attacks, or anxiety — so you can comprehend their lived experience and be aware of any extreme or risky behaviors or symptoms to watch for.
There are a plethora of resources available online nowadays, ranging from peer-reviewed journals and papers by mental health specialists to blog posts and personal writings by people who understand your loved one’s mental health struggles.
Check in with them regularly
Many people who are struggling with their mental health are already guilty of wasting other people’s time, energy, and mental space. Check in with them on a regular basis – even if it is just a quick message or call, keep them company when you can, and tell them that you love them and are on their team.
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