In tribute to last week’s public awareness, if you didn’t know, it was World Mental Health Day on 10 October. As a person who has had issues of her own, I wanted to share a list of things for you to be a better friend and help someone who suffers from mental health issues.
We all know that we can’t exactly help a friend, as we are not professionals. However, we are their friends, and a friend is supposed to be there to guide and support them and ensure that we are there for them no matter what.
- Set them aside with no distractions
Firstly, it is essential to set an open and non-judgemental space so the other person can feel comfortable and free to talk about how they think, which leads us to our next point.
- Allow them to talk as much or as little as they want
Avoid pressuring them to talk. Let them open up at their own pace, whether they’re sharing as little or as much information as they want. This way, it will make them feel like you understand them and that you don’t push or force them to hurry up, or else they would just end up closing up on you and won’t trust you. It takes a lot of guts and courage for a person to be able to open up.
- Don’t second-guess their feelings.
It is essential to remind yourself that you are only here to offer them support and are not a professional counsellor or medical expert. Therefore, never make assumptions or jump to conclusions, and don’t diagnose them. They will worry even more or it might add a burden to them.
- Keep questions open-ended
Instead of pointing out the obvious – “I can see that you’re feeling very low” – say “tell me how you’re feeling?” Remember to keep your tone neutral and don’t pose too many grilling questions. Wait and let them talk.
- Talk about wellbeing
You can talk about multiple ways of de-stressing or self-care that they can practise and easily do at home. It could be exercising, healthy eating and having a good night’s sleep; these are essential practices that can sustain good wellbeing.
- Listen carefully
It’s good to take everything they have told you. It shows that you listen, but it’s also good to repeat what they have said back to them to ensure that what they had told you was correct. This way, it confirms that you are listening to them. It shows that you understand what they’re saying and what they feel. It shows that you respect how they feel.
- Offer help in seeking professional support
Since you’re only there to offer support, it is better to go with them to the GP or help them talk to a family member or a friend, especially if matters get worse. Never take control, and allow them to make decisions.
- Know your limits
Last but not least, as mentioned earlier, if matters have gotten worse or things have gotten a little complicated or concerning, it’s better to take action ASAP and make sure that they are safe. There’s an extent of control that you can take and other matters can be handled by professionals and professionals only.