Being there for a friend who’s struggling with mental health can be challenging and a bit overwhelming at times. Where do you start? What do you say? If you ask them the question of “why” are you judging them? It’s like you want to be supportive, but you’re simply not sure of how to approach the situation.. am I right? Imagine watching your homegirl cry while you’re awkwardly sitting there thinking of how to console her; it’s the same concept. It’s truly been a gift and a curse for me to have experienced mental illness from both perspectives. On one hand, I’ve watched quite a few of my friends struggle with a variety of illnesses: anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, you name it! There were times when I had to step in and be the person to offer my help in any way it may have been needed. On the flip side, I’ve also been the one to struggle with depression and anxiety myself. I’m talking days of calling out of work just because I didn’t have the strength to get out of bed. Just staring at the same walls and sleeping the day away in hopes that I’ll feel better when I wake up. Nothing’s worse than having the weight of the world on your shoulders and feeling like you’re dealing with the shit alone. However, both experiences have allowed me to fully understand the psychological pressure one is under while going through it, and it’s also taught me the healthy ways a friend can be supportive in a time of need. If you have a friend who’s been having a hard time keeping a healthy mind and you’re not quite sure how to assess the situation, here are some tips on how you can help:
–Validate Their Feelings: Let your friend know that it is 100% okay to feel those emotions. Whether you agree or not, you have to understand that it is better to feel the emotion and allow it to pass rather than suppress the emotion for it to resurface later. Feeling the emotion is the key to proper healing.
–Listen: Simple, right?! Let your friend be heard and offer to help in any way possible. Be mindful that your friend may be holding in a lot just because someone made him or her feel unheard in the past.
–Be Time Supportive: It may take a while for your friend to get through what he or she is feeling. Allow your friend the proper time needed to heal and DO NOT force the person to move at your pace.
–Keep Them Company: I know firsthand that having someone around while going through a period of sadness is comforting. Be with your friend. Show that you care and you are there for him or her every step of the way. Trust me, your time and effort can make a huge difference.
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