How to support a friend with mental health issues

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi

Navigating the nuances of mental health issues may be a difficult path but having a supportive buddy can make a huge difference in someone’s life so, it is important to learn some practical ways to support a friend dealing with mental health challenges. It is, nevertheless, critical to address the problem with empathy, compassion and a real desire to assist.

How to support a friend with mental health issues (Photo by Joseph Pearson on Unsplash)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Jyoti Kapoor, Founder-Director and Senior Psychiatrist at Manasthali, suggested how to support a friend with mental health issues –

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  1. Educate Yourself first: The first step in supporting a friend with mental health challenges is to educate yourself about their condition. Understanding the nature of their problems, common symptoms, and accessible therapies will provide you with the information you need to provide effective support. Resources from recognized mental health organizations, articles, and books might be helpful in learning about various mental health conditions.
  2. Be a Good Listener: Sometimes all a person needs is someone to listen to them without passing judgement. Make a non-judgmental environment for your companion to communicate their feelings and opinions. Unless specifically requested, avoid providing immediate solutions or advise. Simply letting them share their experiences can be a powerful way to relieve some of the emotional burden they may be carrying.
  3. Show Empathy and Understanding: Empathy and understanding are essential when assisting a friend dealing with mental health issues. Put yourself in their shoes and recognise that their challenges are real, even if they aren’t always evident. By expressing empathy and acknowledging the difficulty they are experiencing, you can avoid invalidating their feelings and experiences.
  4. Offer Practical Support: Help your friend with practical duties that may appear daunting at difficult times. This could include accompanying them to treatment appointments, assisting with everyday duties, or running errands. Practical assistance can ease some of the tensions in their lives, allowing them to focus on their mental health without feeling overwhelmed by daily tasks.
  5. Encourage Professional Help: While your support is valuable, it’s essential to encourage your friend to seek professional help. Mental health professionals, such as therapists, psychologists, or psychiatrists, are trained to provide the specific assistance needed to address mental health challenges. Offer to help them find a suitable healthcare professional, schedule appointments, or provide transportation if necessary.
  6. Be Patient: Recovery from mental health issues is often a gradual process with setbacks. It is critical to be patient and understanding, and to understand that mending takes time. Provide regular support and comfort, reinforcing the notion that you are there for the long haul, regardless of the difficulties they may confront.
  7. Maintain Regular Communication: It is critical to maintain consistent communication when assisting a friend who is dealing with mental health issues. Check in on them on a regular basis, whether by phone calls, text messages, or in-person visits. This makes individuals feel connected and respected, which helps to alleviate the sense of isolation that often accompanies mental health issues.
  8. Respect Boundaries: Even if your intentions are good, you must respect your friend’s boundaries. Some people may be uncomfortable addressing their mental health publicly, and pressuring them to do so can backfire. Always put their comfort and well-being first, allowing them to share as much or as little as they choose.

Dr Jyoti Kapoor concluded, “Supporting a friend who is suffering from mental illness involves a careful combination of empathy, understanding, and practical support. You can make a big contribution to your friend’s well-being by educating yourself, being a good listener, providing practical support, promoting professional help, and maintaining open communication. Remember that your job is that of a supporting ally and your regular presence can help them on their path to mental health and recovery.”

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