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How to talk to your friends about their mental health

Published 3 weeks ago. Estimated reading time: 5 minutes.

Oct 6

Our friends are often our best support systems, they’re the people we share that great piece of news with and the ones we lean on when times are tough. But for some people it’s not as easy and can be hard to open up and talk about how they’re truthfully feeling, especially with those closest to them. If you’re worried about a friend, checking in and asking how they’re doing is important but finding the right words can be tough. As we approach World Mental Health Day this Sunday, we thought we would share some helpful tips on how to talk to your friends about their mental health. 

A conversation can go a long way

Sometimes it can feel awkward to talk about feelings or mental health, but a conversation can really help. Whether it’s via Whatsapp or face to face, don’t be afraid to check in on your friends or colleagues, especially if you are worried about them. Sometimes it feels we need to wait for the perfect moment, and it can help to have a conversation away from other people and distractions so they feel as comfortable as possible in speaking openly, but remember just having a talk is more important.

What do I say?

The best thing you can do is to encourage someone to open up and feel they can talk. Start the conversation with open questions, like ‘how are you’ to help them talk freely.

Being a good pair of ears is really important – pay attention to what they’re saying and acknowledge their feelings. Don’t jump straight to offering a solution or try to diagnose, instead try helping them to see and understand what they need at the moment, letting them know you’re there for them every step of the way. Try to avoid toxic positivity and say things like ‘things will pass’ as this can make some people feel belittled or that their emotions are unimportant.

How can I help them?

If they say they’re struggling, ask them if they know what will help them at the moment. Is this seeing more of you/other friends? Is this helping them with day-to-day tasks to ease the load or do they want you to keep things as normal as possible? Do they think they need to talk to someone else or seek some medical advice? If you have serious concerns about their mental health and wellbeing, remember to let someone know using the following resources listed below.

Remember, the most important thing with how to talk to your friends about their mental health is just to do it. When you are feeling low or alone, one conversation and knowing someone is there for you can make all the difference.

Useful resources

For more about how to talk to your friends about their mental health you can check out:

https://www.youngminds.org.uk/young-person/blog/tips-for-talking-to-your-friends-about-your-mental-health/

https://childadolescentpsych.cumc.columbia.edu/articles/tips-asking-friend-about-their-mental-health

https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/nhs-voluntary-charity-services/charity-and-voluntary-services/get-help-from-mental-health-helplines/

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/f/friendship-and-mental-health

And if you are worried about yourself or a friend here are some useful charities to get in touch with:

  • Samaritans. To talk about anything that is upsetting you, you can contact Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call 116 123 (free from any phone), email jo@samaritans.org or visit some branches in person. You can also call the Samaritans Welsh Language Line on 0808 164 0123 (7pm–11pm every day).
  • SANEline. If you’re experiencing a mental health problem or supporting someone else, you can call SANEline on 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm–10.30pm every day).
  • Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). You can call the CALM on 0800 58 58 58 (5pm–midnight every day) if you are struggling and need to talk. Or if you prefer not to speak on the phone, you could try the CALM webchat service.
  • Switchboard. If you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you can call Switchboard on 0300 330 0630 (10am–10pm every day), email chris@switchboard.lgbt or use their webchat service. Phone operators all identify as LGBT+.
  • Helplines Partnership. For more options, visit the Helplines Partnership website for a directory of UK helplines. Mind’s Infoline can also help you find services that can support you. If you’re outside the UK, the Befrienders Worldwide website has a tool to search by country for emotional support helplines around the world.

P.S. We’ve shared our useful graphic on our social channels where you can share with friends, family and colleagues on how to talk to a friend about their mental health.

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