How to help friends with their mental health

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Health Assured team

09 January 2023

When others around you are struggling with their mental health it can be hard to know how to support them. You want to be there for your loved ones. But it isn’t always obvious what the best way to do this is. It’s common to feel this way.

So we’re here to reassure you that the most valuable thing you can do right now is let the person know that you are there for them. Showing you care is often more important than anything else.

Here are some ways you can help others with their mental health:

Be patient

It might be difficult to connect with the person when they are struggling, and they may behave or act in ways that seem unlike them. The best thing you can do is to be patient. Try to learn about the mental health condition they are experiencing and how it might be affecting them. When you know the symptoms they might be experiencing, helps you to understand and support them. Try to release judgements where you can. Mental health problems can take some time to recover from. So give yourself space where you need to, and be patient with the other person.

Active listening

One of the most important things you can do to support another with their mental health is to listen. And not just listen, like you’re listening to the radio. To really listen intently and actively to what the other person has to say. Active listening involves listening non-judgementally and being fully in the moment while the listener is speaking. This way you should be able to pick up on the tone of their voice and body language, which will give you a better indication of what the person is saying. When you listen in this way, you make the listener feel heard—and this can help massively with their recovery.

Provide practical help

Any practical help you can provide like offering someone a lift to an appointment, accompanying them to the doctor or picking up their prescription can be a huge gesture of care. You are making it easier for them to get the help they need, and you’re showing that you’re there for them. Mental health issues can be extremely isolating at times. So deeds like these won’t go unnoticed.

Take care of yourself

If you’re supporting someone with a mental health problem, it’s important to look after your own wellbeing first and foremost. You can care for others more effectively by putting your own needs first.

Try not to force anything

You can’t force someone to talk about how they are feeling or seek help. It can take a long time for someone to come to terms with how they are feeling and then start to open up about it. If you sense that someone might be struggling, give them space to decide to seek help in their own time. You can research the kind of support that’s out there and share it with the person. But you can’t take that step for them. All you can do is be a safe space for reassurance, guidance and support along the way.

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