5 Tips for Supporting a Friend on Their Mental Health Journey
Seeing a loved one struggle with their mental health can be challenging + it may be hard to navigate how to support them on their journey. Keep in mind that they may be just as unsure as you are about what they need. What’s important is that you are by their side, showing them that they are not alone. Here are 5 tips on how to approach being a supportive friend to someone on their mental health journey:
1] Do your research
Make sure you have a basic understanding of what it is your friend is going through. As I mentioned, mental health journeys look different for everyone, but being aware of the general symptoms of a specific condition can help you understand what your friend may be experiencing + how to help. Keep in mind that this does not give you the position to tell your friend what to do or how they should be feeling. The role of a supportive friend is extremely important, but it is not the same as that of a medical professional. A great resource for learning about various mental health conditions can be found here at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Being a great listener can help both you + your friend on their mental health journey! It can be extremely beneficial for them to talk about their feelings + share what they are experiencing. This is also the chance for you to learn what they need from you. Try not to force anything [no one wants to be interrogated!], but make sure you listen to what they are willing to share. Being empathetic + understanding can go a long way! Conversations surrounding mental health can be difficult, but the Mental Health Foundation offers some great tips on how to do so.
3] Offer support + assistance
Offer to help your friend in any way they may need it. This could be anything from helping them reach out to a medical professional to covering for them in social situations they might be uncomfortable in. It’s important to destigmatize mental health, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for someone to share what they are going through. Asking for help is a very vulnerable thing for someone to do, so show your friend that you’re available to help — it can really go a long way.
4] Be patient
A journey to mental wellness takes time. Your friend may feel great one day, + the opposite the next day. There will likely be many ups + downs, + your patience can help provide stability + reassurance. It’s also important to know that they will need some space from time to time. It can be hard to step back, but sometimes that might be just what they need.
5] Ensure that everything will be ok + that they will get through this!
One of the most important roles as a supportive friend is to remind them of how strong the are + that they can accomplish anything. You may think this is obvious, but it might not feel that way to them. Another way to do this is to continue inviting them to normal activities, even if you know they will turn you down. Everyone likes to know that they are being thought of!
Keep in mind that mental health looks different for everyone — what helps one person may not help another. Just remember that what seems small to you could make a big impact on your friend’s journey!
— Kelly Slovin [@kellys.inchaarg], #LUCCHAARG