While there are many things that you can do to support your own mental health, it can be difficult to know what to do when a friend is struggling. When you are on the outside looking in, you can feel pretty hopeless. Supporting a friend who is struggling looks slightly different when you are supporting yourself, as you need to learn about their experiences, as everyone is different and will require different support.
To help you support your friend who is struggling, here are some top tips.
#1 Look after yourself
Before you support your friend, it is important that you look after yourself and set boundaries. Mental health can be a heavy topic, so you want to ensure that you are capable of supporting your friend without it negatively impacting your own health. To be a good friend, you need to be able to set boundaries and seek support if you ever need it. When you look after yourself first, you will have more energy to be there for your friend.
#2 Talk to them
Talking about mental health struggles can be a good way to tell your friend that you are open to listening and being there without judgment. It can often be hard for someone to open up when they are struggling, especially if they don’t know how you are going to respond. It is important that you start conversations around mental health. You can then learn more about what they are struggling with and what you can be doing to help them. Try not to force your friend to speak, and instead, set a time without any distractions and let them share as little, or as much, as they want to. If you put too much pressure on them, you might scare them off.
Make an effort to actively listen to what they are saying. You don’t always have to agree with what they say, but you can show compassion and understanding. You can summarise what they have said back to you, so they know you have understood them.
#3 Encourage self-care
When someone is struggling with their mental health, it is often self-care that gets neglected, however, this is often the most important thing a person needs when they are struggling. Where possible, talk to your friend about basic self-care practices that they can do to help themselves. These might be basic tasks such as making their bed, having a shower, brushing their teeth, etc. It can also mean things like a healthy diet and exercise, which is manageable for your friend. These will support their mental health.
#4 Help them find support
Professional support is important when a friend is struggling with mental health. There is a plethora of effective support that is available, for example, tms therapy, and addiction recovery support if you have good Health Net drug & alcohol coverage. Speak to your friend to learn about what they need, and help them find support that will best help them.
Supporting your friend with a mental health problem is a kind thing to do, but it can be difficult. Make sure you follow these top tips for the best conversation.