Friendships can be vital for getting through the hard times that life throws at us. I like to go to my friends for support before my family because I feel like I can relate to my friends more. It can be hard to know how to support someone who is going through a mental health condition. We want to help our friends with what they are going through but we have no idea where to start.
I totally know how you feel and that is why I came up with 8 ways to support a friend who has a mental illness.
Educate yourself on your friend’s disorder. This will help tremendously when you are supporting your friend because you will not be holding any misconceptions about their disorder with you. It’s also a good idea to have general knowledge about mental health to help educate others as well.
Improve the Way You Talk About Mental Illness
I hear people all the time saying things like the weather is bipolar out today, that man is so crazy, or she is so OCD because she likes a clean workspace. We all say these things in our day-to-day life but does that make them okay? For people with mental health conditions, hearing this kind of language can be very hurtful. Try to be mindful about the language you use everyday.
Show Your Support
Express openly to your friend that you want to support them. Make sure that your friend knows that they are not alone. Telling someone that you care can make a HUGE difference in someone’s life who is truly suffering.
The best thing you can do for your friend is to listen to them. When you listen to them:
- resist the temptation of wanting to give advice.
- they should talk 80% of the time and you should talk 20%. Remember that this is about them and not you.
- if your friend discloses personal information, make sure you keep it private. The only exception to this is if they are talking about committing suicide. When suicide is mentioned, it is time to talk to a professional and get help. You can also offer them the suicide prevention hotline number to get help in your area.
Let your friend know that you want to support them and ask them what they need from you. It could be as simple as saying “I want you to know that I am always here for you if you ever need anything.” Don’t promise to do something that you cannot do. I had a friend once tell me that I could call them whenever I needed and I ended up calling him like twice a day. Make promises to your friend that you will 100% be able to do.
Talk About Treatment
Ask your friend if they are getting the treatment that they need. If not, offer to help them find available resources in your area. You can also offer to go with them to appointments if they need the extra support. If you are under the legal age and your friend is afraid of asking their parents for help, offer to help them with that process. Check out this video I did on how to talk to your parents about your mental health if you need some inspiration on where to start.
Support Their Healthy Behaviors
It is so important to praise people for the positive things that they do and not the negatives. If they practice great self-care like getting enough sleep, taking a shower, eating, or exercising, let them know that you see progress!
Take Care of Yourself
I know from personal experience how rewarding it can when you are helping someone but it also can be extremely draining. It can get overwhelming supporting someone with a mental illness. It’s at these times when we have to remember to take care of ourselves. Learn how to set boundaries with your friends and keep to them. Practice self-care and make sure you are healthy in all areas of your life. You cannot help someone else if you are not fully okay yourself. Reach out for support if you need it too!
I really hope these tips helped give you some ideas on how to help your friends. Let me know down below some ways that you have helped someone or how someone has helped you!