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Articles > Mental Health May, 03, 2017

How To Help A Friend With Mental Health Problems

Emma Buckley
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If someone close to you suffers from mental health issues then you’re probably no stranger to feeling helpless. You may never have experienced mental health problems like anxiety or depression, so what can you do or say to make it better?  

From someone who has been in this position, here are a few tips to help your friend or family member through this tough time…

mental health sufferer talking to friend

They need you even if they don’t say it…

Get in the headspace of a mental health sufferer

Imagine feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders and having all these negative feelings that you just couldn’t explain. And even if you desperately want to talk about what’s going on in your head, when you get the opportunity to speak out, your mind turns blank and you just can’t find the words.

Imagine the fear of losing friends, a place at uni or a job just because of how you’re feeling, it’s terrifying. Worst of all, it’s infuriating when you can’t help but feel that you’re battling this alone.

Take your time to research

Perhaps what your friend is experiencing is something new to you. The NHS website has plenty to offer with a broad variety of mental health issues: how they develop, the symptoms they may be experiencing and the ways to reduce the effects. If you want to research further, then charities and organisations such as MIND have excellent websites to understand mental health issues – They have an A-Z guide providing information and support. By having some insight into what is going on with your friend, you may be able to help.

Remind them that you are there for them

Suffering from mental health issues can be a lonely place and it’s easy to forget that friends and family are there for you. A meet-up, or even a quick text or call is simple yet can mean the world to someone who is battling in their own mind. Remember that even if their replies may seem blunt or disinterested, the opportunity to talk and have a break from their problems will always be valued.

Be open about your own feelings

People suffering from mental illness may find it difficult to talk about what is happening inside their heads. Perhaps they may have stigmatized their own situation, or maybe they are living in fear of being seen as attention-seeking. Being open about your own emotions or mental health issues in general can set an example for them, and remind them it is okay to not be okay.

Remember: healthy body, healthy mind

Mental health problems are not as easily cured by eating better and exercising. However, these do release endorphins (feel-good chemicals) which can boost low moods. Perhaps you could encourage them to engage more stimulating activities: going for walks, joining yoga classes or playing sports in your local park. Although your friend may not feel entirely up to it, let them know the opportunity is always there.

Avoid saying things like: “cheer up”

Don’t compare how they are feeling to a bad day that you’ve had. Your friend may say to you that they’ve had a really tough time getting out of bed and getting themselves to school or college. Responding with something like: “haha yeah, we’re both so lazy! Can’t wait to go home!” is the WRONG approach. Similarly, they may say that they’re feeling really down today and that they just can’t focus on anything. Saying something along the lines of: “cheer up!” or  “just snap out of it!” is probably the worst thing you could say.

Being critical in this way can be not only belittling, but can make them feel guilty for what they are feeling. Understand that mental health issues do not always have a cause, and are not as simple as cheering yourself up.

It’s difficult to know what to do or say when someone is going through something you haven’t experienced yourself. The important thing to remember is to say something, even if it is to ask how their day is going or letting them know you’re there to listen.

If you have any concerns for a friend or family member regarding mental illness, the following NHS link has a variety of websites available to aid with all mental health issues: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/mental-health-helplines.aspx

 

#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

 

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  1. sanaa

    I think that this article is very informative and helpful covering a wide range of aspects about mental health problems and how a friend can help.

  2. utkarsh jain

    I think…a good friend is a best wisher because he/she know the which is best option for you. he/she knows your strength and weakness he/she gives you correct advise and suggestions.if someone close to you suffers some mental health problem you are the only one who can help.in present time social media is the best way to share our thinks& ideas to anyone.it is helpful to reduce our laziness and depression and give you happiness.

  3. Margo

    I think these tips are very helpful and informative.

  4. Tina

    Always speak out about how you are feeling! Most of us suffer at some point and it shouldn’t be in silence!

  5. Savannah

    I think these tips are really helpful, i think there is a stigma attached to mental health and people are too afraid to talk about it. I think we need more awareness to be able to help ourselves and others.

  6. Xteffy

    All these points are very good for someone that suffers from depression or anxiety. But at the end, what everybody needs is a sincere smile of a good friend. That’s all.

  7. Sarah

    I think this is great. People need to talk about mental health more but also about how people can support people with mental health. For some who has been through mental health issues i know how unsupported and helpless my husband and family felt and how friends didnt know what to say or do

  8. Zoe

    I’ve suffered with various MH issues for as long as I can remember and have heard the phrases ‘Just cheer up ‘things could be worse’ and ‘Just try not to think about It’ plus many more similar things. My response is ‘ oh, why did I not think of that, I’ll just pop off slap a smile on my face and crack on being chipper!’. Unfortunately life isn’t that simple, things are hard, I know that a lot of the time my thoughts and feelings are irrational or extreme but no matter how many times I tell my self this the thoughts intrude and grow till I can’t cope with them any more!

    What I need is someone, who may not completely understand, to not just brush me off when I do actually reach out. Someone to listen and reassure me that I’m being irrational but my feelings are still valid.

    It’s not wrong to feel how you feel, feelings are yours (or theirs) and nobody can tell me, you or them how to feel.

  9. dj

    This is a great article and explains the details of what to do and what you should not do.

  10. Courtney

    I’m in this situation myself and this article is spot on, all we ever want is someone to ask us how we’re doing, or get a smile off a stranger.

  11. Anj

    I think this is a good article that brings awareness to mental health issues and how to help those around you.

  12. will

    I think that this is a great idea

  13. Ahmad

    I think you need to tell them they’re not alone and that you will listen to and support them anytime

  14. thembani sibanda

    I think its an awesome and informative article…

  15. Hori

    I think children with intellectual disabilities can still learn new things in their lives, so support of friends is expected in the process of establishing the identity and maturity of children. Following group activities can help friend build social skills. Examples of group activities that can be followed by friend include art or scout classes. This group activity can introduce friend how to act and socialize with others

  16. Jasmine Nikhwai

    Short and sweet. Makes me feel more confident that I’m not letting my friends down, I’m definitely going to take this advice. Keep raising awareness for mental health guys!

  17. Sanjeet Shokeen

    if someone close to you suffers some mental health problem you are the only one who can help.
    today people are more involved in social networking which is very good source of entertainment but they have forgotten the joy of games and talks which they used to do before the advancement of social networking .
    many mental problems can be treated by spending leisure time with friends and family even doctor should be consulted if the problem is serious .
    we should never feel shame if we are a mental patient everyone suffers different kind of problems and it happens with all so we should try to express ourselves and enjoy the happiness of life.

  18. Jau

    Beautifully written. People with Mental Health conditions are known as “weirdo” “loopy” and it is morally wrong. We should be empowering them and support the with their decisions and ensuring they are safe with adequate services in place

  19. hello

    There needs to be more posts like this on the internet, a great way to raise awareness

  20. name

    good i gave it 9 star

  21. Evie

    I think this is very informative and clearly explains how to help out a friend. This is how I’d go about looking out for a friend going through something like this! Well done!!! x