My dad always says that when a crisis hits, most people walk away. It’s the people who walk towards the pain who really matter.
I’d get that advice tattooed on my heart if I could.
It’s the single most important thing you can do for someone who’s struggling with mental health issues: Walk towards them. Too many people get pain-shy, skulk away and find excuses to exit stage left from their distressed friend’s life. Compassionate people make their support known.
But once you’ve picked up the phone, or dropped round for an impromptu coffee, or sent your potentially distressed friend a sweet SMS, what do you actually say to someone who’s living with a mental illness? And what should you avoid saying or doing?
Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by mindhealthconnect. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100 per cent authentic and written in their own words.
Not knowing what to do and say is the most powerful thing keeping good people from behaving sensitively around someone who is depressed or anxious.
To help — because friendship at the right time can make all the difference in the world to someone drowning — here’s a helpful list of DO’s and DON’T’s. Store this in the compassion department of your brain because mental illness will touch so many people in this lifetime, if you don’t have a friend in need right now, you will.
DO gently broach the topic that you’re concerned about their mental health.
DON’T be aggressive or judgmental.
DO stay in regular contact, whether that’s a daily or weekly SMS just to check in, a phone call, a sweet email, or a link on Facebook you think they’d like.
DON’T say anything that resembles “Snap out of it” or “Pull yourself together” or “Cheer up”.
DO acknowledge that they’re feeling sad or awful.
DON’T pretend to know exactly what it’s like. It’s OK to say “I can only imagine how you feel.”
DO ask questions. Demonstrating that you care and you’re interested is a really powerful way to support someone.
DON’T be their only therapist. If you think someone needs immediate help, consult a doctor.
DO get support yourself. If you think you might need the support too, get it.