Supporting someone with a mental health problem
The vast majority of people who suffer with mental health problems can live full and successful lives. Especially if they’re getting support from professionals and those around them.
However, it’s not uncommon for people with mental health problems to worry that people will tease them or treat them differently.
There are some things you can do to help your friend feel more comfortable:
Avoid being judgmental
Keeping an open mind may help to create a safe environment for your friend which may mean they are more likely to relax and enjoy themselves.
Talk about what they find helpful
Make conversations about their mental health problem easy and open. Try asking what helps them when things are tough.
By talking openly, you are letting the person know your love and support for them. You may like to talk about what you’ve read and ask how they feel about it.
Respect your friend’s limits
There may be times when your friend says they are not able to do something because of their mental health problem. Respect this and don’t put extra pressure on them.
Often those taking medication are not able to drink alcohol. This may make it difficult for your friend in certain social situations. In this case, it may be helpful when you hang out to choose to do something that doesn’t involve alcohol.
Stay in touch
Let them know you’re there. Don’t avoid them. Even texts or emails if they’re not up for visits to stay in touch can make quite a difference to them.
Continue to invite them to things. This can be difficult when you are not getting much back but can really help them in the long run.
Your friend will have good days and they will have bad days. Accept this and don’t try to “cure” them.
It’s likely that someone with a long-term mental health problems will be on regular medication. This may have side effects, which means your friend may not enjoy taking it.
However, medication can be an important part of management, and your friend may need your support to stick at it.
If your friend stops using or changes the amount of medication they use without getting the OK from their psychiatrist or doctor, encourage them to make an appointment quickly.
Similarly, if they’re experiencing side effects that weren’t expected they should also contact their psychiatrist or doctor.
Ensure you have contact numbers
Having contact numbers of people like their psychologist, doctor or psychiatrist is often important in helping your friend through a crisis.
It means you can contact someone who knows your friend should they be in a situation where they are unsafe and need some help.
Get help for your friend
For those who have a mental health problem, there may be periods of time when things are not manageable. Harder times may be triggered if your friend has been over-stressed or there has been a traumatic event or a change in medication.
These things can trigger the characteristics of the mental health problem they experience. This is often called an ‘episode’.
When you’re concerned
If you’re concerned your friend is not behaving as they normally would, encourage them to talk to someone they trust like their doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist.
If you think your friend is likely to hurt themselves or someone else, find some help immediately even if they don’t want you to.
Look after yourself
Sometimes when we’re helping a friend we forget to look after ourselves. Take care of your own needs as well as helping your friend.
Make sure you don’t give up things you enjoy, and if you’re feeling tired or overwhelmed take some time out and relax.
What can I do now?
- Read what is depression?
- Find out more about management and treatment options
- Read a personal story from a young man who learned to manage his anxiety and depression