9 ways to help a friend experiencing mental health difficulties

No one should have to suffer alone.

Queer people are disproportionately affected by mental health problems, with Stonewall statistics revealing that 52% of LGBTQ have experienced depression and 13% have experienced anxiety in the last year, with hate crime and discrimination often having a negative impact on mental health.

These statistics are even more worrying for trans and non-binary people, with 46% of trans people thinking about committing suicide in the last year, compared to 31% of cisgender gay, lesbian and bisexual people, while 41% of non-binary people have self-harmed.

If you’ve got someone close to you who’s experiencing problems with their mental health, it can be difficult to know how best to help them. Here are nine tips on how to offer your support.⁣⁣

Listen to them

The most important thing you can do for a friend who’s experiencing difficulties with their mental health is to listen to them. Often, speaking about how they’re feeling will help them to rationalise what’s going on and assist them in developing a practical strategy to overcome whatever they’re going through.

Don’t minimise their experience

A common mistake when speaking to someone who’s going through it is to try and uplift them by pointing out everything that’s good in their life. While the desired effect is to cheer them up, often it can be misinterpreted as reductive and demeaning to the genuine problems they’re facing.

Do your own research

The last thing anyone wants to do is explain the clinical repercussions of their mental problem with you. That’s where your good friend Google comes in. There are countless resources across the internet for every manner of mental health problem – educate yourself so that your friend doesn’t have to explain it to you.

Remember that mental health issues affect everyone differently

There’s no cookie-cutter format for mental health, and everyone’s experience will be unique to them so don’t be surprised if your friend isn’t displaying all of the typical symptoms. Many people will only display some, or they may already be on medication for some of the more severe effects.

Offer loose invitations to things and don’t be upset if they don’t want to come

People suffering from mental health problems will often find it difficult to get up in the morning, let alone leave the house for social interaction. Keep inviting your friend to things, but casualise your language so that it won’t be a huge deal if they don’t end up coming. And if they don’t, don’t take it personally.

Be patient

Again, everyone’s mental health journey will be unique so make sure that you’re patient with your friend as they may take some time to get better. Try and be consistent without becoming overbearing, and avoid making things about yourself.

Don’t let them become isolated

It’s essential that anyone with mental health problems is constantly reminded of their connections. Their body will be trying to separate them from all of their friends and it’s important that you work to stay in their life. Think about making plans to hang out that doesn’t revolve around a major activity or party.

Let them know that you’re there if they need you

It’s likely that your friend will brush off your offers of help or support, but remember that this doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t need it. By constantly reminding them that you’re there if you need them, when they eventually do they’ll know to reach out without hesitation.

Look after yourself

You need to be a bit selfish in order to make sure that your own mental health is kept in check. If you’re feeling brought down or overwhelmed, don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to your own network, or to the many professional support agencies at your disposal for assistance.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out to an organisation like Mind Out, Switchboard, The Trevor Project or Samaritans. Don’t suffer in silence.⁣⁣

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