As per studies conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), around one in five American adults suffers from mental health problems. It’s possible that one of your close friends might be part of that statistic.
It’s a tough time when you have a friend who’s struggling with their mental health. You may be at a loss as to how best to support them, and they may seem like they’re determined to push you away.
The good news is that there are many ways you can help if only your friend would let you.
Here are six tips for supporting a friend who’s going through mental health challenges.
1. Be Open and Honest
As a friend, it’s important to be open and honest about what you are feeling. This can help them feel connected to you and like they can trust you.
If your friend is going through a difficult time, don’t be afraid to share your own experiences with mental health issues. Although not everyone will have the same experience as someone else, sharing your own story may make them feel less isolated by their illness or trauma.
Be aware that they may not want to talk about everything that is happening in their life at once, and don’t take it personally if this happens. They may need some time before fully trusting anyone enough for an open conversation about their mental health struggles.
Take things slowly. Just because someone doesn’t tell all of the details of their difficulties right away doesn’t mean they don’t trust or value you as their support system. It’s just another sign that mental illness isn’t something anyone should ever feel pressured into talking about if they’re not ready yet.
2. Don’t Take It Personally
It’s incredibly important to understand that your friend isn’t mad at you. They might be angry and frustrated, but they aren’t trying to make you feel bad. Your friend is suffering from their own thoughts, beliefs, and past experiences. You are not responsible for their mental health or the things that happen in their head.
You also want to avoid taking on any of your friend’s feelings yourself. This can lead both of you down a spiral of self-loathing and low self-esteem.
3. Listen and Ask Questions, But Don’t Expect Direct Answers
When someone you care about is going through a hard time, it’s natural to want to help them find answers. However, what they may need most from you is simply your presence and attention. Listening is an important part of that. It allows them the space to articulate their feelings, even if they don’t know what those feelings are yet or think that their problems aren’t worth talking about.
Don’t force them to talk about it if they don’t want to; just be there for them as a friend when they do want or need support in dealing with their mental health issues. Also, avoid giving them solutions or telling them what they should do next. That’s not your job. Your job is just being there for the friend who needs you right now, not solving all their problems right away.
4. Use the Resources Available to You
If you’ve been trying to help a friend who is struggling with mental health issues, but their situation has not improved, it may be time to change up your approach.
First, talk to their doctor or therapist about the situation and how best to support them. They may have some suggestions for how to help that are specific to their condition. Otherwise, they might be able to recommend a counselor or psychologist who could offer additional assistance.
Ask if any online support groups might be helpful. If there aren’t any specific ones designed for people with this type of issue, look into whether there are other types of online communities where someone with similar experiences would feel welcome.
Talk with other friends who have gone through similar experiences to get more insight into what they did while dealing with their own mental health problems and what helped them most during those times. In particular, look at how they were supported by friends outside of those closest to them.
5. Explain the Necessity of Getting Therapy
Explain to your friend why therapy is important. Talking about one’s mental health issues can be a difficult task, especially for those who are not used to discussing their feelings.
If your friend is hesitant about seeing a therapist, explain that therapy is not a sign of weakness and that it’s actually the opposite. Therapy will help them deal with their mental health issues and improve themselves in the long run.
Your friend might have to visit the therapist more than once. According to Allied Market Research, the global mental health market in 2020 was valued at $383.31 billion, which includes treatment services.
A certain portion of that money goes into specialized practice management software for psychologists and therapists. This software keeps track of the client’s progress as well as ensures easy appointment scheduling. The software will also ensure client data privacy, which is why there’s no reason for your friend to worry that their information might be misappropriated.
6. Be Patient
Lastly, you should be patient when your friend struggles with their mental health. Be there for them and let them know that you are ready to talk whenever they are ready. However, if they aren’t ready to talk right now, then it’s okay to wait.
They may not be able to talk about the issue immediately because they might not have all the answers or because it’s a difficult topic for them. You need to accept this and just be there for them in whatever way seems best at the time.
Every year, there are new ways of dealing with mental illness being discovered across the world. Even recently, The New England Journal of Medicine published a research paper that suggests how certain synthetic mushrooms can ease depression. However, before seeking any sort of treatment, what your friend needs is someone to lean on, and you should be there for them at that moment.