How to talk to a friend who is struggling with their mental health
So like, how’s your brain feeling today?
University is an intense and stressful experience. It’s no wonder that one in four students report having a mental health problem. I’m one of them, so I know that one of the most difficult things to do is to talk about it.
I have been struggling with my mental health for a while now and university has both destroyed and saved my mind. All the changes; new places, new people, new lifestyle, is a lot to take in for anyone. For someone who was already unsteady on their feet, it makes every new day feel like hiking up Everest.
But university has ensured that I’m never climbing alone. That whole thing about making lifelong friends at uni? It’s surprisingly accurate. The people around me are the cast and crutch to my fractured mind. Many of my close friends are aware of some of things I have been struggling with.
I am aware that in order to be there for me, I need to help them understand. The problem is, how can I explain something to them that I don’t understand myself?
Mental health issues vary so much, there aren’t any hard and fast rules for how to talk to a friend about it. Through my experiences and those of my friends there are a few things that may be useful when talking to someone about their mental health struggles.
Don’t be afraid to ask how they are
Just asking a simple “how are you” can mean the world to someone, particularly on a bad day. It shows you care about how they are but isn’t overbearing.
Don’t press them with a million questions about every detail of their mental health
How depressed are you today? Have many panic attacks recently? You’re not planning on killing yourself are you?
These are all big no nos and things people have asked me in the past (yeah, people can be great with conversation sometimes).
This goes for both the support group and the person struggling. It is very frustrating when you want to help but feel like you can’t. It is also frustrating when you want to let other’s help but don’t know how. Unfortunately, no one can read each other’s minds.
For the same reasons as above, even though you may not know how, it’s important to tell each other how you feel. This goes for friendship in general to be honest. Apparently people think it is important and actually like to talk to each other (weird, I know).
Don’t make their mental health struggles the focus of every conversation
A person’s mental health problem does not define them, it is just a part of them. Though they will be very grateful for your support, they don’t want to feel babied.
They are still your friend and will be there for you too. Being there through their struggles is so important. I am personally so grateful for all the people in my life who have been helping me through my difficulties. You mean the world to me and motivate me to continue to work on myself so I will be worthy of your exceptionality.