Often times, we go through disturbing moments and people help us through them.
There are times we have been worried about other people’s mental health. Whether they are a friend, family member or colleague, there are many ways to support somebody you care about.
Although certain symptoms are common with specific mental health problems, no two people behave in exactly the same way when they are unwell. If you know the person well, you may notice changes in their behaviour or mood.
Here are some signs to look out for
Withdrawing from social activities or appearing down for more than 2 weeks. This could mean crying regularly, feeling tired all the time or not wanting to hang out anymore.
Drastic changes in behavior, personality or sleeping habits. Your friend might be sleeping much more or much less or get agitated more frequently.
Severe mood swings. Life is stressful, but if there seem to be outbursts that go beyond how other people would often act, it might mean something more serious
Harm to Self or others
Self-harming actions such as cutting or burning. Some people may begin to wear long sleeves or pants to cover up signs that they are doing this.
Threatening to kill his- or herself or making plans to do so. Although you may not know whether your friend is serious or not, it’s better to be safe and take things seriously.
Extreme out-of-control, risk-taking behaviors. Behaviors that can endanger his- or her own life as well as others, such as speeding excessively and not obeying traffic laws, might be a sign that something is wrong.
Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, including intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities like hanging out with friends.
Not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to lose weight. Pay attention if your friend isn’t eating much at lunch or going to the bathroom right after meals.
Repeated use of drugs or alcohol. Coming to class hung over, showing up to sporting events intoxicated or wanting to bring drugs or alcohol into daily activities is not normal.
- Extreme difficulty in concentrating or staying still
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions
- Aches, headaches, digestive problems without a clear cause
- Obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior
- Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with work, family, or social life
- Unusual thinking or behaviors that concern other people
Share Your Genuine Concerns
Share your observations with your friend. Focus on being nonjudgmental, compassionate and understanding. Use these “I” (instead of “you”) comments to get the conversation started.
I’ve noticed you’re [sleeping more, eating less, etc.]. Is everything okay?
I’ve noticed that you haven’t been acting like yourself lately. Is something going on?
It makes me afraid to hear you talking like this. Let’s talk to someone about it.
Reach Out To Someone You Trust
If a friend is in need, you don’t need to go at it alone. Involve others who can provide added support. Try to find someone who might be understanding of your friend’s situation or be able to help. Your friend may feel cornered if you start involving others, so make sure to talk to your friend first. However, if it’s an emergency, you should call the National Suicide Prevention Help line 0509497705 or 0558424645 or the Crisis Text Code : *711*88# and get an authority figure. Here are some people you may consider reaching out to:
Friends and family
School teachers or counselors
Mental health advocates and
Keep in mind that your friend might not be ready to talk about what they’re going through or simply may not want your help right now. You cannot force someone to get help, so just do your best to be there with your friend through their journey and be ready if and when they do finally reach out. It may be helpful to offer specific things that might help, such as:
How can I best support you right now? Is there something I can do or can we involve others who can help?
Can I help you find mental health services and supports? Can I help you make an appointment?
Can I help you with the stuff you need to get done until you’re feeling better?
Would you like me to go with you to a support group or a meeting? Do you need a ride to any of your appointments?
You can play an important role in helping a friend build a positive, social support network. Here are ways to do that:
Check-in regularly. Call or text your friend once or twice a week. Check in with them after their therapy appointments to see how things went. Let them know that you are there.
Include your friend in your plans. Even if your friend doesn’t always come, they will probably appreciate being included.
Learn more about mental health conditions. Find out more about what your friend is going through so you are better able to help in future situations.
Avoid using judgmental or dismissive language, such as “you’ll get over it,” “toughen up,” “snap out of it.” Your friend needs to hear that they are not alone and that they can get through this. Reassure them that everything will be okay and that you are there for them.
Being a friend means being there in easy times and more difficult times. If your friend is experiencing a mental health condition, this is a time when he or she needs you the most. And sometimes just talking about it might help your friend feel less alone and more understood. You can be the difference in helping a friend who needs support but is too afraid to seek help. Just a simple conversation can go a long way in helping your friend. You can make a huge difference in someone’s life.