Last week, I made a (ranty) list of things people with mental health problems are tired of hearing. But what things do they want to hear? What can you say to someone that’s struggling? Here’s five helpful things to say to a friend with mental health problems;
“I’m here with you”
For people suffering with any mental health issues, one of the greatest problems they face is feeling like they’re alone. When they’re in a spiral, probably the best thing you can do is let them know that they’re not. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in person, even just being on the other end of the phone is enough. You’re not going to magically make their problems go away, but being with them and listening to them whilst they process it is sure to be appreciated. And the more you prove you’re there for them, the more comfortable they’ll be with you in the future.
“You’re not being silly”
As if whatever problem they’re going through wasn’t enough to deal with on its own, people with anxiety often worry that their worries seem ‘silly,’ that the way they’re acting is ‘annoying’ and that people around them are judging them for it. Let them know that this is not the case. Give them a safe space to talk about their worries, no matter how small, without feeling silly for it.
“Let’s sort through it together”
Sometimes the best way of getting through a spiral is making a plan to fix the problem. Doing something practical is key to seeing the bigger picture, Your friend knows this, but when they’re at their worst they’re likely to forget. Again, let them know they’re not facing it on their own, and help them see that there are steps you can take to help them feel better.
“Take as long as you like”
Even when you’re trying you’re best, a few nice words aren’t going to make your friend feel better instantly. It’s easy to get frustrated or helpless when you feel like you’re not making progress. But the things is – healing takes time. If you make them feel bad or guilty for not ‘cheering up’ when you’re trying your best to help them, the chances are they’ll tell you they feel better, whether its true or not. The last thing they want to be is a burden. But this can be dangerous. Let them know its okay to take their time, and that you’ll sit with them whilst they get through it.
“How can I help?”
Ultimately, being there for a friend with mental health problems is about showing them you want to help, whatever they need. Maybe they want you to distract them, help them solve a problem, just listen or even leave them alone. But, importantly, they know they can come to you if they need to. ‘How can I help?’ let’s them know you’re there.
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