How to Help a Friend
How to Help a Friend who may be struggling with Mental Health; it is not often talked about, but we all struggle with mental health, or mental wellbeing from time to time. Life can be challenging and heave unexpected obstacles in our paths. Love, money, weather, parenting, deaths or divorce are areas in life that can wreak havoc on our mental health.
We all like to consider ourselves strong and shine our best faces forward to the outside world. Especially in this day and age with the pressures and easy perfection of social media overshadowing our daily realities.
Somedays, it is very hard to be strong, and perfect, and smiling. Sometimes, those days turn into weeks, or even years, and when that happens, it can ebb away a person’s mental wellbeing, their self-worth and esteem, and their ability to cope. Watching our friends or family struggle is difficult. As a society that likes to help, it is hard to watch our friends and family struggle. We want to fix something, and do it fast. Mental Health isn’t always a quick fix however. Helping a friend or family member who is struggling takes patience and time, and daily reminders that things can get better.
Our society has not valued therapy or psychological services until recently. The trend is changing now though and that is good. More and more, people are seeing the benefits of going to therapy. That therapy is not a sign of weakness but one of strength. The more we can change the culture around mental health, the easier it will be to help our friends and families in meaningful ways.
If you have a friend or loved one who is struggling, follow these six easy things to help them:
- Be Available. Even a simple text can give a struggling friend some hope. If you can’t get back to them right away, be sure to check in often, and offer encouragement.
- Share your concerns and offer support. Say, “I’ve noticed you’ve been sleeping more, eating less, etc. Is everything okay?” and then, “How can I help you?” or “Can I help you get anything done until you are feeling better?”
- Reach out to other friends/family/teachers/mentors and create a support network
- Include your friend in your own life and plans. Invitations may not always be accepted, but will always give the impression that your friend is wanted and their company is appreciated.
- Avoid using judgmental and dismissive language, such as “you’ll be fine,” or “toughen up,” or, “get over it.” Reassure them that they are not alone, and instead say, “it will be okay.”
- Encourage seeing a therapist or going to a support group. Say, “Can I go with you to a support group or to a meeting? Can I help you find someone to talk to?” Help them understand that getting professional support is a fast track to feeling better and getting well, not a defeat of strength. Assure them they are not crazy. Assure them that life can take its toll and there is nothing wrong with getting a little help sometimes.
Life is not always easy and at one time or another, whether we admit it or not, every single human being struggles with mental health and wellbeing. Offering hope and acceptance is the best way to help a friend. For more info, visit https://vermontcarepartners.org, or www.nami.org.
A collaboration of the Vermont Care Partners’ statewide network of sixteen non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and support.
To Find an Agency Near you visit: https://vermontcarepartners.org/agencies/
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255, www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org, Text VT to 741741
Vermont 211: Dial 2-1-1 anywhere in Vermont or visit www.Vermont211.org to get live referral help.