The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Seeing a friend struggling with a mental illness is never an easy thing to do. Whether it be a long-term or short-term diagnosis, trying to navigate how to support your friend can be a difficult task. Nobody struggles the same and what works for one person may not work for another. It is important to note that just because you cannot see a mental illness like you can a physical one, does not mean it is not there. And just because you think something will make them feel better does not mean it will. Mental illnesses are tricky but that does not mean you cannot help in one way or another.
The best thing you can do when someone is struggling with a mental illness is to be there for them. Many people do not want to talk about the problems going on in their life, but knowing that you will be there for them if they need you means a lot. Sometimes those struggling with mental illness isolate themselves from others, so continually letting them know that at the end of the day you are still their friend can make them feel less alone.
Asking how you can support them is a great way to show you care and understand what they may need from you. They may want some space and time away or may want your company to keep them busy. As I mentioned before, everyone struggling with a mental illness wants and needs different things, so asking them can be very beneficial.
Learning more about the mental illness or illnesses your friend struggles with can be a good way to educate yourself. The more knowledge you have on what your friend is going through the better equipped you are to help. Recognizing the signs of when things may be getting worse can help prevent your friend from developing more serious symptoms and be proactive in addressing the issue.
Validating your friends’ feelings is another way that can help them feel less alone in their mental illness journey. People who struggle with mental illnesses may feel like no one can understand them, and although you may not have the same experiences, you can still ensure that what they are feeling is okay.
Seeing someone you love struggling can lead to a feeling of helplessness. Although you may be able to help your friend in many ways, you should never feel like their life and problems depend on you being there. Feeling guilty should not be a feeling you have and do not think that what you are doing is not enough or that you always need to be doing more. Your mental and physical health is important too and draining yourself out only makes it worse. Sometimes no matter what you do your friend may not want to get the help they need and it is truly out of your hands.
Mental illnesses are difficult for the person dealing with them and for those around them. Supporting someone with a mental illness can be challenging, but it is important when you want your friend to know you are there for them. Always remember that not everyone needs the same type of support and you should not jeopardize your health in trying to help others.