You don’t have to have all the answers to bring a smile to a friend’s face. Sometimes it’s hard to know the right way to help someone who’s struggling with their mental health condition. Here are a few ideas:
Practice Active Listening
It’s one thing to hear what someone’s saying, and another entirely to listen, acknowledge and respond to what they’re saying. Actively listen to your friend. Listen for not just what they’re saying, but what they’re not. Put down your phone and give them your full attention. And try to respond with empathy, instead of trying to fix the issues at hand.
Do your research…
If you know what your friend is experiencing, but haven’t had any experience with it, it might be helpful to read stories from people with similar mental health conditions to understand their perspective. Try blogs like The Mighty, nonprofit organizations like Bring Change to Mind, and forums on Reddit as a first start.
…but don’t take a story as the only story.
This is even more important. Regardless of the research you’ve done, and the stories you’ve heard, your friend is going through their own distinct journey with their mental health. We are all. Although you may feel empowered with a new perspective, don’t try to find your friend’s narrative into the ones you’ve researched.
Use Home-Field Advantage
If your friend is in crisis and wants to meet up, consider going to them. Sometimes the added steps of getting dressed and commuting can add to the tension your friend is experiencing. Be wiling to meet them where they are. This can be digitally, too – if they’re comfortable with texting, keep texting. Or, if they feel best talking via phone or voice, meet them there. You can help alleviate anxiety and stress just by taking the extra step to making them feel comfortable.
Socially, we’ve been taught not to take help. So for many of us it’s difficult to reach out for support to begin with, especially when it’s related to our mental health. If you know your friend is struggling, keep reaching out and checking in consistently, even if they’ve declined your support. It helps them know that you’re there, if and when they’re ready. Be sure to implement this practice in a safe and supportive way; you never want to overwhelm them in the process.
Don’t Take It Personal
Sometimes, you’re simply not the right person to help – or, your friend is choosing to take this journey on their own. Just remember that right now, it’s not about you, and whatever you may be feeling isn’t necessarily a reflection on you, it’s simply the situation. Adding your emotions to the scenario can cause harm, or complicate your position to be in service for someone else.
What are some ways you like to be supported by your team? What tools have you used to help people around you in crisis? Let us know in the comments below.