Being a friend means being there for your loved ones in times of need. Unfortunately, sometimes people go through mental health struggles that can be difficult for you to understand. However, even though you may not understand what they're dealing with, you can still be there to support them. Here are a few ways to help a friend who is struggling mentally.
Sometimes all you can do is provide support and be there to listen to your friend's problems that may be affecting them mentally. Noticing your friend is struggling means you're on the right track. Many people don't realize when their closest friends are struggling, so if you've noticed that they aren’t doing well, you've already started taking the proper steps to help them.
Any changes in your friend's personality or behavior could signal mental health struggles, especially if they're dealing with a stressful or emotional life event like the death of a loved one or a breakup. After you've noticed someone struggling mentally, you can start finding ways to be there for them when they need you. Of course, you may not always be able to come when called, but you can make plans with them when they ask to ensure they have someone to talk to about anything.
When individuals struggle mentally, they may forget they have loved ones who care about them. Don't ever let your friend forget how much you care, even if they seem stuck inside their own heads and are struggling to get out of bed in the morning. As soon as you notice your friend struggling, start making an extra effort to spend time together to give them as many opportunities to talk about it and feel less lonely.
You don't have to plan activities to be there for your friend, either. Instead, you can hang out at their place or go out to dinner to remind them how much you care and let them know that you'll always be there for them, no matter what.
Talk About It
If you've noticed changes in your friends' behavior or they seem more withdrawn, consider asking them about it. While some people, especially emotionally unavailable men, may prefer to keep their problems private, others are looking for an opportunity to discuss them with a loved one but won't start the conversation themselves. You can ask your friend how they've been or let them know that you've noticed changes in their behavior to start the conversation.
Always wait to have these conversations until you're alone because you don't want to put your friend on the spot in front of others. Instead, try to stay calm and let them know what you've noticed rather than accusing them of acting differently.
When people tell you about how they're feeling, they typically aren't looking for you to come up with a solution. Instead, they want you to listen and understand what they're trying to say rather than fixing it. It may be intimidating to ask your friend about their mental health because you might not know what to say or do to make them feel better. However, allowing them to talk about it freely can sometimes be enough for them because you're not expected to know what to do, so don't try to fix their problems because they're likely just looking to talk.
Always try to remain as non-judgemental as possible, and instead of trying to cheer them up, let them know that you're there for them no matter what. If you don't know what to say, you can tell them you're sorry for how they're feeling and ask if they'd like to continue talking about it. Depending on your relationship with your friend, you may ask if there's anything you can do to help them through a tough time. Depending on why your friend is struggling mentally, you might be able to help. For example, if someone is grieving a loved one, they may not have time to focus on themselves. Therefore, being there to cook for them or take care of some of their household chores can help them regain control of their lives when they're going through a difficult time.
Help Them Find Help
Not everyone is ready for mental health services, so don't suggest it until you feel like your friend might be open to it. Because there's a stigma around online psychiatry and therapy, many people might become offended if you suggest they get professional help. Instead, talk to your friend about the benefits of therapy and assure them that having a professional to talk to can help them through difficult times. Of course, never try to force your friend to see a therapist, especially if they're not ready yet.
When your friend becomes open to the idea of therapy, consider helping them find someone to talk to. If you've ever had therapy or know someone who has had a good experience, you can ask for recommendations. You can also research to find therapists that your friend can trust.
Protect Your Own Mental Health
Being concerned for your loved one is important, but feeling like their health and wellness is your responsibility is another thing altogether. No one's happiness or mental health is dependent on yours. Unfortunately, when your friend is struggling with mental health, they can become irritable and may even think about hurting themselves. If you're ever afraid for your friend, realize that you can't do this on your own.
Of course, you should always let your friend know how much they mean to you, but if their behavior starts affecting your mental health, you may have to set boundaries. Have an open and honest conversation with your friend if they begin affecting your mental health, and try to set expectations with them about how you'd like to help them, but you can't do everything for them.
Being available for someone 24/7 can make you feel stressed, so try to remain communicative with your friend but don't let them rely on you for everything. While you can make a great sounding board, their mental health is up to them, even though you can offer them support. You should also never feel guilty when you're happy even though your friend is struggling. We all go through different things in life, and no matter what's going on with your friend, a true friend will want you to feel happy no matter what.
Teach the Importance of Self Care
When people are struggling mentally, they may not take care of themselves. By teaching your friend the value of self-care, you can show them different ways they can protect their mental health before stress consumes their life. Depending on the reasons why their mental health is suffering, simple acts of taking better care of themselves by practicing good hygiene and skincare or exercising regularly may help them start to feel better even when they're stressed.
You can also teach them how you manage stress to give them ideas for how they can start to relieve stress after a bad day at work, helping reduce any anxiety they feel that can impact their sleep schedule and mental health.
If your friend has told you something that scared you for their health and safety, it may be time to seek outside help. Of course, you may feel like you're betraying their trust because they told you something in private, but you should never feel ashamed to help a friend when they're truly in need, even if they don't understand it at first.
Always be open and honest with your friend. If you're worried your friend might do something harmful to themself or someone else, let them know how you feel about it and tell them you feel it's time to get outside help. Depending on the situation, you can offer to go with that friend to get help. For example, if your friend isn't comfortable going to therapy, you can offer to go with them.