It’s great that conversations about mental health are becoming normalised. The difference now compared to even 10 years ago is huge. We know it’s important to talk to each other about our mental health, but how exactly do you go about doing that?
If you know someone you care about is struggling, there’s nothing wrong with being proactive and dropping them a message first. Mental illness can be very isolating, and if they haven’t got in touch for a while this could be a sign that things have got worse. Whether you’re checking in, asking to hang out or just sending them a meme, a reminder that they’re on your mind could go a long way.
Even if you’ve been friends for years, they might not feel comfortable calling you up out of the blue to talk about how they’re feeling. Letting them know explicitly that you’re there for them, if they want to talk, will help put their worries at ease.
Everyone is different, and everyone’s struggles are unique. Some people just want a sympathetic ear, others will be hoping for guidance. The best way to find out what will help is by asking them directly. ‘Do you need to vent right now, or do you need advice?’
No matter how small the problem seems, dismissing the way someone feels will only make it worse. Remember we don’t really know what’s going on in other people’s heads. Everyone is affected differently by things and that’s ok! The world would be so boring if we were all the same.
Be patient, take it slow, listen. You might be tempted to launch into an inspirational speech or explain how simple the solutions to their problems are. It’s worth remembering that this approach can stray into ‘toxic positivity’ – focusing only on the good sometimes leaves the person suffering feeling more alone.
Once you’ve established what they need from you, it might be time to point them in the direction of more help. This could be offering to attend a doctor’s appointment with them, signposting helplines and online resources, or just encouraging them to talk to more friends and family. Remind them that by seeking help they are one step closer to recovery, and opening up to you was incredibly brave.
For more information visit the Mind website: https://www.mind.org.uk/
If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone urgently you can call Samaritans for free 24/7, 365 days a year, on 116 123.