It can be really hard to watch those around you struggle and suffer from any kind of illness, including mental illness. You may feel powerless in helping them. If you don't understand what they are going through you may feel clueless in knowing what to do. You don't want to get it wrong, but you also want to do whatever you can to help.
I'll tell you one thing, the fact that you clicked on this post means that you are a good friend. You have their best interests at heart, and you want to do whatever you can to help them fight their mental illness. Well done you. Your struggling friend is lucky to have you in their life. What's important now is that you put these tips into practice and do the best you can to help them through this tough time.
It's not going to be easy, but I promise you what you are doing is going to help. They may not want your help all the time. They may even be in denial about their mental health. The best thing you can do is be there for them, be a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen to them and a warm pair of hands to offer a hug, in times of need. I hope you find these tips helpful.
1) It's the small things that count
You don't have to do anything amazing to make your friend smile. You don't have to buy them expensive gifts or take them on fancy days out. The best things come in small packages. Make them a little happiness package or a cute bundle full of some of their favourite things. Know they are stressed or feeling particularly anxious? Make a pamper package including their favourite hot beverage, skincare products, bath bombs and cute slippers. Know they are stressed about exams? Buy them a lovely selection of stationery and their favourite foodie treats. I guarantee that these thoughtful little packages will mean a lot to them and put a little smile on their face.
2) Don't get angry with them
It can be easy to say to them that you are there for them. You want to support and listen to them when they are struggling. Don't forget this should apply in all situations. If you've organised an event or outing and they cancel at the last minute, you can not get angry with them. If they've cancelled because of their mental health, you have to understand it's not their fault. Be a good friend and realise that even if it's inconvenient for you, trust me they are feeling equally as bad about the situation. Don't make a big deal of it. Put yourself in their shoes and think how hard struggling with any mental health problem must be.
3) Listen to them
Not everyone wants to talk about their mental health problems openly, that's okay. If your friend does find the courage to confide in you, it is imperative you listen to them. Understand the courage it takes to tell someone that you are struggling. The least you can do is listen. Reassure them that you are always going to be here for them. You don't have to be a professional to give advice. Just having someone who is happy to listen, offer support and is nonjudgmental is what will really matter to them.
4) Don't make a big deal of things
Although you may think this might help in actual fact, it will probably do the complete opposite. If your friend has a panic attack or suddenly feels anxious and wants to leave, don't treat them as if they are about to die or it's mass emergency situation. Stay calm, make sure they are okay and they are safe. Don't attract lots of attention to them. They definitely don't want it. Having a panic attack in a public place can be embarrassing at the best of times, having you make a big deal of things will only make it worse. Slip out quietly to make sure they are okay if they need comfort stay with them but if they would prefer to be on their own, let them be.
5) Hugs are the best Medicine
If they give permission, give them a hug. Physical comfort in times of crisis warms the heart. Obviously, if hugging isn't their thing or you're not comfortable with it, then no one should be forced to. It's just something to bare in mind, a little way of reassuring them it's all going to be okay. You've got their back. Struggling with your mental health can be very lonely sometimes. It's always good to be reminded that there are people out there who care and listen during times of need.
If you know a friend struggling with their mental health, I hope these tips come in handy. The more you know, understand and can emphasise with them the more you will be able to help. Battling mental illness can be scary. Having someone on their side will help them greatly during their recovery.
I would love to know what you do to help your friends struggling with their mental health in the comments below.