How to Help a Friend Who is Struggling With Mental Health Issues

In this day and age, we can all agree that mental health is just as important as your physical health. It just happens that some people are a little more vocal about it than others. If you think the people in your life seem okay, you might want to make sure -- sometimes they may not be. Someone as close as your best friend can be putting their mental health aside and not taking care of themselves. More often than not, you have no idea. Don’t be hard on yourself for not realizing that they’re hurting or for them for not opening up about it. Here are some ways you can try to be more caring and aware in a situation like this one, without being super abrasive:

  1. 1. “Hey, are you okay?”

    Okay, don’t come at me. I know this question is pretty obvious but start there. Sometimes, that’s all they need to hear. You’d be surprised by how many people go by day by day not hearing that question at all. Some people just forget to ask. So, just make sure both of you two are in a position and/or environment where they can vent to you if they decide to answer. “Are you okay?” can go a long way. Plain and simple.

  2. 2. If you notice their mind is wandering off and losing focus often...

    Don’t take it personally if someone shuts you out. Most of the time it has nothing to do with you if someone is being weird or unfocused in your friendship. It’s tough to hear that when a friend might seem uninterested in a conversation, but anxiety is overwhelming and can take control of your thoughts.

  3. 3. If you notice they’re losing interest in the things that used to make them happy...

    From not wanting to participate in their favorite hobby, listen to the music they love, or not wanting to watch that Netflix episode of “Friends” that they used to quote all the time. When they no longer care about the things that once brought them joy, it means that their mental health is in such a bad space, that those fun activities aren’t fun anymore, and that can be very disheartening. Not caring indicates desensitization, and once that occurs, it can be difficult to regain the happiness those things once brought. Talk to their family members or them personally if you see this happen.

  4. 4. “Did you eat today?”

    If they say no, offer them something to eat and make sure they do. In a bad headspace, one can forget to do simple daily tasks. Eating is one of them. Showing you care doesn’t have to be by saying that you care explicitly -- little things like this go a long way.

  5. 5. “You can always come to me in a time of need. You can trust me.”

    If you two are best friends, it’s usually implied. But, when in such a vulnerable position, your best friend is going to want that reassurance. They need to know that you are absolutely and 100% there for them. They might be hesitant to vent at first so don’t pressure them. When this happens, patience is key. And if they do choose to open up, never judge what they’ve got to say.

  6. 6. Ask them what help looks like to them.

    Do they need advice? Do they just need a listening ear? Both? Before you assume anything, ask your best friend what you can do to help. Be the best friend you can possibly be.

With that said, make sure they do not become overly dependent on you. You are there for support, but you yourself have to apply all these steps to yourself at the same time. If you or someone you care for find themselves feeling this way for a long period of time, consider offering them ideas on how to help their mental health that is outside of you.