Even in today’s changing world, the conversation surrounding mental health is stigmatized, often because vast misinformation is still circulating. It’s because of this stigma that so many individuals dealing with mental health issues remain silent, even while they’re suffering.
If you notice that a friend is dealing with mental health issues, you may feel a bit lost and unsure of how to help them in a productive way. Here are some ways to be the best friend you can be to someone dealing with issues involving their mental health.
LET THEM KNOW THEIR FEELINGS ARE VALID, EVEN IF YOU CAN’T UNDERSTAND
It’s often difficult for those who have never had to deal with mental illness on a personal level to understand what it feels like. But, when supporting a friend who is going through symptoms of mental illness, it’s important to validate the way they’re feeling.
Telling them to “just stop thinking about it” or that their symptoms are merely a case of “mind over matter” is more than just unhelpful, it’s damaging and can cause your friend to feel even more misunderstood. Instead, be empathetic toward your friend and the situation; it’s okay if you can’t fathom exactly how they feel, but try for a moment to understand what it is they may be going through. Let them know that it isn’t their fault that they’re feeling this way and that their feelings are valid and worthy of being listened to.
HELP THEM GET OUT OF THE HOUSE
When fighting the symptoms of mental illness, your friend is going to try to protect themselves as best they can. It’s common to try to accomplish this by implementing unhealthy coping mechanisms; one of which is isolation. They may believe that things won’t get worse if they just keep to themselves – not leaving the house and avoiding interaction with others may be one of the ways they try to accomplish this, but it can often exacerbate feelings of loneliness.
Do your best to invite them out, just you and them one-on-one, in a relaxed and stable environment. Try going out for a meal, or doing something physical like taking a walk around a nearby park.
SUPPORT THEM IN ANY WAY YOU CAN
If you can’t get your friend to spend one-on-one time with you, the most you can do is be there for them in whichever way you can, even if it’s not in person.
Let them know that you’re there for them no matter what and that you’re just a call or text away. Help them understand that they’re not alone and that there are people they can reach out to, including you! Part of being a friend is being there when times are rough, and not just when things are light and carefree.
BE A SOURCE OF COMFORT, BUT REALIZE THERE IS ONLY SO MUCH YOU CAN DO
It’s important to be there when a friend is struggling with mental illness, but there is a point where you need to realize that there is only so much you can do. While having the support of friends can be comforting, at the end of the day, you aren’t a professional and you can’t make your friend’s symptoms disappear, no matter how badly may you want to.
If your friend is not already seeing a psychologist, therapist, or counselor, bring up the idea to them. Talking to someone who is a trained and licensed professional can only move things in an upward direction, and they can help your friend deal with the symptoms that they are experiencing. They can also work with your friend on a treatment plan and teach them healthy coping mechanisms for when their symptoms become heightened.
Do you have any more insight on how to help a friend going through mental health issues? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, and check out https://vina.app.link/emma to meet more Vinas in situations just like you.
(Feature image via @lisamabecker)