How To Be A Friend To Someone with a Mental Health Illness

How do you help your BFF when they’re struggling with mental health issues?  

As young women, we find ourselves facing a plethora of different issues every single day, and maintaining our mental health is at the top of the list. Data from NHS Digital has reported that ‘young women are the highest risk group for mental health problems’, with anxiety and depression affecting 1 in 5 women aged 16 -24 years old. But statistics are just numbers on a page, and what do you do when one of of these five women is your best friend?

What do you do when your best friend, who has always made you belly laugh for an hour over her impression of Louis Walsh, calls you having a panic attack? How can you help when the girl you always relied on can’t get out of bed, and needs you to cook her dinner just so she has energy to cry? Being a best friend to someone with a mental health problem can be a tricky role to play, especially if you do not suffer with the illness yourself. It can be all too easy to just say ‘it’ll be OK’, and trying to cure the problem with a hug and copious episodes of Friends. It can be difficult to hear the people you love completely crumbling around you, and there is no overnight cure.

Whilst it can be tricky, there are ways you can be there without fail. Read below our top five tips for being a bessie mate to someone with mental health issues, and remember if you do ever need support caring for a loved one, you can call Time For Change on 020 8215 2356.

1 – Listen!
She was there for you when you spoke for 4 weeks straight about your ex boyfriend,  and now she needs you to listen to her. No matter how long the phone call is, how many texts she sends whilst you’re at work, listen. Even if what she’s saying is hard to take in, ensure your ears are open and your mouth is closed.

2 – Be firm.

It’s vital that your firmly reassure your friend that her thoughts are completely valid, that she isn’t going ‘insane’, and that she is worthy of a happy life. Don’t passively tell her that she is a good person, and that you kind of enjoy her company. Get soppy, get firm. Ensure that she knows how much she means to you. Validate her worth, because sometimes it can be a difference in a good and bad day.

3 – Reserve judgement.

Whilst it can be hard to understand, and at times it can seem unbelievable that your beautiful friend can have such ugly thoughts about themselves, push away your judgements and deal with the problem in hand. It might not be the way you want her to think or feel, but unfortunately it is. So face it with maturity and with an educated perspective, it may even help your people skills moving forward.

4 – Maintain normality.

It can be hard to go from being drunk at 4am with your best pal to having emotional chats about mental health, and society has kept this subject in a huge bubble of taboo for years, sometimes making it impossible to find the balance between serious and fun. But your friend will love you for making her laugh, for reminding her of some top bantz you had at uni, or just texting her to tell her about a new dress you got. Keep up regular contact, mix up the conversation. You’re her friend first, after all.

5 – Stability.

And lastly, one that links all the prior points, just be there for her. Whether it’s 4am and you’ve just bought home a one night stand, or if it’s 3pm and you’re in a work meeting. Make sure she knows that you’re there at the end of the Whatsapp, battling her corner with her, and fighting to restore her. Be a constant in her life, because there’s nothing worse than feeling alone in a fight you are losing. You can do this, together.

If you have any more top tips on how to help a friend in need, or want to share your story, email us at chapterw16@gmail.com.

Louisa Davies

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1 Comment

  1. Derrina Jebb
    January 24, 2017 / 6:31 am

    This is an amazing article; really proud of you both for creating such an incredible online space full of good articles. Well done xxx

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