How to Support Your Friend's Mental Health

Listening is an act of love.

Everyone just needs to be heard. To know that they belong, their feelings make sense, and they're not alone. Guess what, you can do this for the people in your life. No therapy degree required.

But you're a good friend. You already knew that.

Because you're a good friend, you may have noticed them struggling with their mental or emotional health. Maybe even before they've noticed it themselves. 

You're not sure about the best way to support them, and they still need help. You might think they could benefit from therapy, but how do you bring that up?

Look, it's not easy to call some random professional. Especially if you're struggling with depression, anxiety, or something else that makes it hard to do commit to things.

Hearing it from a trusted person can help people decide to take action. You could be that trusted person! Just make sure you do these things for your friend too:

1. Hear them out.

Literally, just be quiet. That's the first thing I learned in therapy school! (Just kidding. Sort of.) Keep your mouth shut and hear them out. If they're overwhelmed, angry, or really sad - and they're actually sharing it with you - that's a sign of trust. Let them have their space.

2. Don't tell them what to do.

Do not overload them with advice - even if your advice is really, really good. Wait for them to bring it up. They might ask, "What do you think?"

You can ask: "How can I help?" Or, "are you open to some advice?" 

If they say, "No, I just need to vent," or "I already know what to do," respect that.

Unsolicited advice (except in the form of super cool blog posts) isn't helpful. If anything, it just adds to their feelings of overwhelm. You probably know from experience: People rarely follow through on suggestions they didn't ask for.

The nice thing is, they'll know you're there for them when they are ready for advice.

3. Don't make it about you.

People are vulnerable when they're struggling. Sharing your own vulnerability can help them feel not judged. Talking about your personal experience can put things in perspective, but don't expect your friend to have the same response. Plus, people in the midst of struggling don't want to hear that you "fixed" your same issue overnight. *slow blink* Just because therapy (or something else) worked for you, doesn't mean it will work for them, or that they're ready for it. 

4. Ask, don't accuse.

Maybe your friend doesn't realize that this has become a problem. Or maybe they don't realize how obvious is it to their friends and family. Bringing it up the wrong way can cause them to pull away. 

You might notice a change in their mood, behavior, how often you see them, or their energy before they do. Depending on your relationship, it can be OK to point this out with kindness. 

Don't accuse, just notice, and ask. "Hey, we haven't seen you in a while, I started to wonder if you're OK. How are things with that new project at work?" 

You might not get the answer you want, or are expecting. Let it go.

5. Be specific

If your friend is clear about wanting advice, and you have a good idea of what's bothering them, then you can make an informed suggestion. 

"I think you should talk to someone" is OK to say. 

"Hey, I actually know someone who focuses on working with [insert thing your friend wants help with]" is a little more encouraging and helpful. It also takes away some of the stigma associated with seeking mental and emotional health support. 

There are many ways that you can get help, depending on what's bothering you. It could be joining a meet up, finding a gym you like, getting acupuncture, starting a medication, working with a coach, or something else that helps you heal and move forward.  Therapy is just one of many options.

Therapy can be helpful if you've tried all of the above and still aren't feeling better. It can also help you have a better understanding of what is bothering you in the first place. Once you know that, you can figure out what you need in order to heal. As a therapist, I'm not in the business of making people "need" therapy. Yes, I think everyone can benefit from therapy, but there are many ways to cultivate wellness.

We rely on our friends and chosen family for a lot. Being kind and honest about offering help doesn't have to be weird. 

 

If you or someone you know might benefit from therapy for anxiety, depression, or relationship issues, call (562) 704-4736 or send a message to set up a free consultation. Prospect Therapy welcomes individuals and couples of all genders and orientations in Long Beach, Seal Beach, and surrounding areas. 

Request a free consultation

Name *
Name
Best number to reach you
Best number to reach you
Preferred appointment day
Do not enter protected health information