Throughout the world, mental health issues plague millions of individuals each year. They do not discriminate, and they often wreak havoc on the lives they are able to infiltrate. When you have a friend who struggles with anxiety, depression, or other diagnosed mental health disorder, you might be wondering how to help them without becoming a burden or nuisance. There are several things that you can do for the person you care about.
Learn About Mental Illness
One way to begin having a better understanding of your friend's current mental state or diagnosed condition is to spend time learning about mental illness, misconceptions, symptoms, treatments, and statistics relevant to individual disorders or ailments. For example, there are several triggers of depression that have nothing to do with being sad or lazy. Understanding the causes of mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or another diagnosed disorder, such as PTSD, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder, can help you to learn more about how your friend feels and experiences the world on a daily basis.
Don't Diagnose Them
After you've done some reading about mental health, it can be tempting to try to diagnose your friend based on your observations of them. Resist that urge. Mental health issues are highly complex and require detailed evaluations and elimination of other possibilities by a trained professional. However, while it is important to respect your friend's privacy as well as the mental issues they are struggling with, it is also important to provide healthy tools and resources when they are warranted and welcomed by your friend.
Listen to Them
When discussing your friend's current mental state, their feelings, and the mental health issues they are struggling with, be an active listener at all times. Rather than simply waiting for your friend to finish what they are saying so that you can interject, offer advice, or provide resources, truly spend time learning how to become a better active listener. When your friend feels as if they are genuinely being listened to and heard, they are more likely to remain open and honest with you about their struggles, even if their struggles become dangerous or potentially life-threatening.
Rather than sharing your own experiences, moods, and even your own mental health issues or struggles as your friend is expressing themselves, be sure to remain as an active listener. Instead of sharing your experiences and taking away from your friend's moment to share their true thoughts and feelings, empathize with your friend, and continue to ask questions about their own personal mental health issues and the disorders they are struggling to overcome each day. Active listening is key to maintaining an open relationship with any friend, especially one who is currently struggling mentally and emotionally.
Don't Be Overbearing
Avoid being overbearing when discussing mental health issues and disorders with your friends, especially if they have asked you not to bring up specific topics or subjects. Rather than provoking your friend by discussing issues that are difficult for them, simply inform them that you will be available when they are ready to discuss anything that is troubling them in their lives.
Ask if You Can Help
Once you have assured your friend that you are willing to be understanding and supportive of them, ask them directly if there is anything you can do to help. Avoid being pushy or persistent, and simply inform them that they do not need to answer you immediately, but that you are available to help them anytime they feel that they are in need.
Remain Understanding of Limitations and Lifestyle Changes
Understand that mental illness significantly impacts lifestyle, and it can cause your friend to feel sad, depressed, lonely, despondent, and even anti-social or isolated and alone. It is important to note that these changes are typically linked with brain chemistry changes and should not be taken personally or as a slight against you as their friend. Familiarizing yourself with the mental illness or mental health struggle that your friend is battling can help you to better understand their habits, lifestyle changes, and any behaviors that may otherwise be atypical or out of the ordinary for them.
Know Your Own Personal Limits
In life, people tend to strive to help those they love, including both blood relatives and friends they have met throughout their journey. However, it is important to understand your own personal limits when it comes to assisting your friend with their issues or going too far and neglecting yourself and your own life.
If a friend is unwilling to work on seeking help or is unable to do so on their own, it is important to provide insight, opinions, and resources whenever they are welcomed and when your friend is opening to listening. It is also important to never neglect yourself and your own needs as well as your everyday responsibilities. In order for you to truly be able to provide the love, care, and support necessary for your friend, you must first ensure that your own daily life is in proper order.
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