There’s a 25% chance that, at some point in your life, you will be affected by some form of mental health difficulty. This is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about, and the most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Whether talking to a professional, a family member, or a friend, there is always help available to you. But what happens when you notice that a friend may be having mental health difficulties of their own? What should you do? Here are some tips and guidelines so that you can help that friend or loved one as best you can.
Recognize the Signs
The first step is to recognize the signs that someone could be experiencing a mental health issue. Although these may vary depending on the specific mental illness, these signs are the most common:
- Withdrawal from social life
- Difficulty functioning in school or work
- Problems with memory or simply thinking things through
- Showing signs that they are disconnected from reality
- Changes in sleeping, eating, and hygiene habits
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Extreme mood swings
- Conversations about suicide
Some of these symptoms and the possible outcomes can seem scary, but you must remain calm and not let your fears stop you from helping them to get help. Ignoring these signs will not make them go away and will only make this person’s feelings of isolation and lonelieness worse. Even simply asking if there is anything they would like to talk about, and offering an ear to listen, can make a huge difference. There is absolutely no shame in being diagnosed with a mental illness, it is often the first step to a real and lasting recovery.
How to Help
If a family member or a friend is showing any signs of having mental health difficulties, you can help them by offering support in the following ways:
- Find out if that person is getting the help that they want or need, and if they are not, assist them in finding that help.
- Let them know that you are concerned about them, and that you are there for them if they need any help.
- Remind them that mental health problems are nothing to be ashamed of and that help is out there for them.
- Don’t ignore signs. If they start a conversation about mental health, be supportive and responsive, and reiterate the fact that there is always help out there.
- Offer to help them with simple everyday tasks to reduce their stress level and lessen their potential feelings of loneliness.
- Continue to invite them to events and gatherings but do not be overbearing. Assure them that you want them there, but if they aren’t feeling up to attending, that is okay.
- Educate those around you about mental health problems and never discriminate.
- Always treat those with mental health problems with compassion, empathy, and respect.
When helping a friend get the help that they need, you may experience some difficulties with your own emotions. This is perfectly normal, and you should not hesitate to talk to someone about these problems for yourself. For information on the mental health services Caminar provides, please visit http://www.caminar.org.