When the going gets tough, be that helping hand to your friend and let them know you’ll be there for them.
In case you didn’t know, October is mental health awareness month, which is fitting given how prevalent mental health issues are in Philippine society. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Philippines has the third highest rate of mental health problems in the Western Pacific Region, translating to millions of Filipinos who struggle with their mental health. And the thing about it is that mental health can come in many forms. Sometimes, someone who is struggling mentally may not even show it. This is where friendships come in.
Aside from the family, friends can play an important part in helping people deal with their mental well-being. Even as simple as asking your friend how they are doing can begin an important conversation. So, if you want to help a friend who is struggling mentally or just want to be there in their down days, here are some helpful tips.
MAKE THEM KNOW YOU’LL BE THERE FOR THEM
It’s important to know that you can’t change people overnight. It can often take time for someone to be in the right place mentally. But what you can do is to let them know that you’ll be there for them. Take their feelings seriously and remind your friend that they are cared for and will not be alone in this journey. Dealing with mental health can often be a lonely experience, so letting your friend know you’re there for them is a solid first step. Be open and listen to what they have to say. Your job is to be there for them, which is enough to mean the world for some people.
LET THEM KNOW THEIR STRUGGLE IS NOT A BURDEN
Your friend may be hesitant to open up about their concerns because they might be ashamed or feel that they don’t want to burden people with them. But that is far from the case. Let your friends know that what they are going through is not a hindrance to you. Reassure them that what they are going through is valid.
Validating their feelings can help them feel seen and heard or that their concerns aren’t being brushed aside. They might even open up in their own way without being pushed to do so. The last thing you want to do is to tell them that they are overreacting or making things uncomfortable.
BE HONEST WITH THEM
As a friend, you’re there to be their rock and support. But you also have to be honest with them regarding what they are going through. You don’t want to sugarcoat things to the point where you end up lying to your friend. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should bring them down, but speak truthfully in a way only friends can. Keep it real and respectful.
BE THE FIRST ONE TO REACH OUT
If your friend doesn’t open up to you, you can be the one to reach out or start the conversation. And it doesn’t have to hit directly at the issue. A simple “How are you today?” or “I’ve noticed that you’ve been down these past few days. Are you okay?” is enough to get the ball rolling. Reaching out first might make them feel more comfortable opening up. Ask them how you can help or what support they need, and listen to what they have to say.
And if they are having a hard time opening up to you in a casual setting, have a proper conversation and set a time and place to discuss it. But it’s important to respect their boundaries and give them the space they need given how personal it can get. If they feel uncomfortable talking about certain topics, then change the subject. Don’t pressure them to open up to you when they don’t feel like it.
RESEARCH ON WHAT YOUR FRIEND IS GOING THROUGH
Unless you’re a licensed professional, you cannot diagnose what your friends are going through. This is why it’s important to educate yourself and do your research on what your friend is going through. Mental health is a complex and delicate issue, so you won’t know how to help your friend if you don’t know what they are going through. Not only will you be informed on your friend’s situation, but you can also use the knowledge to help other people in your life. A well-meaning friend is an educated friend.
HELP THEM GET SUPPORT
Aside from being a shoulder to lean on, you can also be there to help them get the support they need. Ask them what they need from you, whether it be mundane tasks or professional help. You can even accompany them to their professional counseling sessions if they would prefer your company there. Even simple gestures like helping them with regular tasks or household chores can be enough support. But it’s important to remember that you are not there to control them, dictate their life, or push them to do something they don’t want to do.
REMEMBER TO LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
Seeing your friend go through down days can be tough. But remember that caring for their well-being doesn’t mean you should neglect yours. You alone are not responsible for your friend’s well-being nor should you beat yourself up when they feel down. There are so many things going on with your friend’s life, and you are just a part of it, so be patient and don’t burden yourself with the weight of guilt. Be there for your friend, but be there for yourself as well. This is a journey, not a sprint.