World Mental Health Day: Advice for Responding When a Friend Comes to You with a Mental Health Problem

World Mental Health Day: Advice for Responding When a Friend Comes to You with a Mental Health Problem
2020-10-11

Discussion of mental health has been on the rise over the past few years, but there still is little advice on how to support your friend with their mental health. It can be worrying, as you don’t want to say the wrong thing. Well this article hopes to give you some advice on what to say and do if your friend comes to you with mental health problems. 

Be Present:

You might feel a bit lost if your friend comes to you for advice on their mental health. But the most important thing to do is let your friend know that you are there for them. If possible, set a time for discussing this, and make sure there are no distractions, this will provide a safe space for them to talk to you.

Be a listening ear:

One of the best ways to help your friend, is to listen actively. It may seem obvious, but often when someone comes to us for comfort it may seem like you need to give your advice. While sometimes this might be the case, your friend mostly needs someone to validate their feelings. If you are worried that they don’t think you understand, it is okay to repeat back what they are saying neutrally to ensure that you understand them. This will let them know you respect what they are feeling – which is crucial during these conversations.

Its also important to let them lead the conversation, as it is their mental health. Letting them take the conversation at their own pace is vital in being a supportive friend!

Be careful with your language:

One of the hardest things when trying to comfort someone can be trying to use the correct language. Sometimes the language you use can trip you up. It may seem easier to say than do, but it is important to think about what you say. If you need to ask questions, make the tone of your questions neutral. This will make your friend feel safe when answering any questions, but it is also key to point out that if they don’t want to answer, they have every right to!

Be positive:

As this situation may not be the most positive, you should communicate to your friend that confiding in you was a good thing to do. One of the main worries your friend might have in discussing their mental health with you is that it will change your relationship. Explain to them that it hasn’t, and that you are thankful they opened up to you will put your friend at ease.

Just remember, the fact alone that they are opening up to you is a great thing, as talking about your mental health can take a lot of courage – even to the most understanding of friends!

Be honest:

You will have your limitations, as does everyone. It’s okay to admit that you don’t know, mostly your friend won’t be coming to you for answers. However, if you feel this is the case, the best thing to do is to help them get professional help; trying to diagnose or examining their feelings is best left up to the experts! You can even help them with this, for instances, you can offer to go to the GP with them (or if you are in the middle of a pandemic, you can sit with them as they talk to the GP on the phone). Yet, its important to remember, that this is their decision to make.

If you are worried that this situation is more serious and that your friend might be in immediate danger, it is important to make sure they are safe. Get them medical help if they are injured. If you think that they might be suicidal, you or they should contact NHS 111, or the GP immediately, you can also call Samaritans and Nightline.

It can sometimes be overwhelming to help your friend with their mental health, so make sure to get the support you need as well.

Helplines:

NHS 111: operates an out-of-hours phone service providing help if your GP surgery is closed. BUT… if it is urgent, telephone the Emergency Services on 999, 24 hours a day.

Samaritans: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline) or email  jo@samaritans.org; www.samaritans.org.uk

Nightline 01224 272829 (Every night during term and the Easter break 8pm-8am); Anonymous email available 24/7 listening@aberden.nightline.ac.uk  https://aberdeen.nightline.ac.uk/

Published by Students, University of Aberdeen

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