Supporting a Friend With Mental Health Difficulties
Someone who is experiencing mental health difficulties is usually able to live a successful full life, particuarly if they are receiving help to manage their illness. However, it is not uncommon for stigma to be attached to experiencing mental health difficulties. This often causes people to feel embarrassed.
Often people with mental health difficulties worry that people will tease them or treat them differently. There are some things that you may want to do to help your friend feel more comfortable, these are:
Avoid being judgmental – Being aware of the stigma. 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 difficulties easy and open. Try asking about what helps them when things are tough. By talking openly, you are letting the person know about your love and support for them. You may like to talk about what you have read and ask how they feel about it.
Respecting your friend’s limits – There may be times when your friend says they are not able to do something because of their illness. It is important that you respect this and don’t put extra pressure on them. Often those who are taking medication are not able to drink alcohol. This may make it hard for your friend in certain social situations. If you know that your friend is unable to drink it may be a helpful when you do hang out to choose to do something that doesn’t involve alcohol.
Encouraging your friend to stay with their medication – It is likely that someone with long-term mental illness will be on regular medication. This may have side effects, which mean your friend may not like taking the medication. However, medication is often an important part of managing the illness 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 are experiencing side effects that weren’t expected they should also contact their psychiatrist or doctor.
Ensure that you have contact numbers – Having the contact numbers of people like their psychologist, doctor or psychiatrist is often important in helping your friend through a crisis. It means that you can contact someone who knows your friend should they be unsafe.
Getting help for your friend
For those who have a mental health difficulty, there may be periods 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 illness they experience. This is often called an episode.
If you are concerned that your friend is not behaving as they normally would then it is important to encourage them to talk to someone they trust like their doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist. If you think that your friend is likely to hurt themselves or someone else find some help immediately even if they don’t want you to.
Looking after yourself
Sometimes when we are helping a friend we forget to look after our ourselves. It is important to also take care of your own needs as well as helping your friend. Make sure that you don’t give up things that you enjoy and if you are feeling tired or ovwhelmed take some time out and relax.