HOW TO HELP SOMEBODY WITH A MENTAL HEALTH CONDITION
Written by: Asher Low, B.SW, R.SW
“I want to help, but I don’t know how!”
Maybe this is how you’re feeling right now. Perhaps it’s a loved one or a friend who’s suffering and you feel powerless. You don’t know what to do, and there seems to be more questions than answers: “What happens if they reject my help?”, “What happens if I make it worse?”, “Can I even do anything to make a difference?”
It’s OK, many of us have been there, and it can be frustrating and frightening at the same time. After all, not all of us are trained therapists are we? But the important thing right now is this—You want to help. There, you’ve taken the first step. Now let’s help you go even further.
First Things First - Get The Facts
Get woke! Find out more about depression, anxiety, and mental health to help you better understand what your friend is going through.
Next - Be There
Often it’s not going to be the advice that you give your friend or loved one that makes the difference. But rather, just you being there when they need someone the most. Here are nine guidelines to help you make the best use of that time - we call them TALK, LISTEN, and TELL.
Help your friend feel at ease in your presence
1. Calmness is Comforting
Don’t panic, you’ll only add on to theirs
2. Be Honest About Your Own Struggles
Sometimes the best way to help someone open up is to say “me too”
3. Humour Helps
Laugh with them, not at them!
4. Have a Non-Judgemental Attitude
Create a safe space for your friend to open up
5. Listen and Empathise
If they feel like talking, ask them how they’re doing, what you can do and what they find helpful
6. Take Their Feelings Seriously
If someone is suffering from symptoms of a mental illness, it isn’t possible for them to “snap out of it”, “cheer up” or “forget about it”. They can’t change how they feel by simply trying harder. Often, they need time, support, and professional help in order to make a full recovery
7. Reassure your friend that things are going to be OK. And encourage them to get help or speak to someone
8. Back Off If You Have To
What they’re going through is sensitive, and they may not be ready to talk about it, or even visit a helping professional. But having someone who’s willing to listen and talk “anytime you’re ready” really helps
9. Respond to Emergencies
Sometimes you might be your friend’s ‘999’. If you think they’re in danger or at risk of hurting themselves or others, seek help immediately