Friends are an important part of our lives. They can provide emotional support when we go through rough patches and share common values, ideas, and views on life.
But when you or one of your friends are struggling with mental health issues, your relationships can suffer, and it’s often because of a lack of communication.
Talking about mental health can be difficult as there is still some stigma around it. Most people fear that once they open up to their friends, they might be looked at differently. However, having these hard discussions is necessary and can also be beneficial.
Why It’s Important to Talk About Mental Health
When a person close to someone is suffering from a mental health condition, they might be misunderstood. Their friends won’t always be able to detect the real cause of their absence, distraction, erratic behavior, substance abuse, or other types of reaction.
Mental health issues are just like other health problems, they need to be addressed with the proper treatment and treated with empathy by the ones in the support system. But, unfortunately, mental health issues still carry a lot of stigmas. Because of that, many individuals are hiding their suffering and are reluctant to seek help.
If we aim to talk more openly about mental health in general, the stigma will become less prevalent, and more people would get help. For some of them, this can mean saving their life.
Opening the Subject on Mental Health
No matter how good friends you are with someone, it’s not always easy to open up about mental health issues. Whether it’s about the associated stigma, privacy concerns or other issues, it can be considered a delicate subject for most people.
If you feel the need to start talking about this topic with a friend, you can wait for the proper moment to touch on this subject. Casually introducing it during a random conversation might work, or it might be perceived as trivialization, causing the other person to keep to themselves more.
A good idea is to take advantage of the rising talk on mental health issues when celebrities and influencers have been taking the opportunity to discuss their own experience or raise awareness amongst their followers. You can easily refer to these posts and ask your friend what they think about the mental health issue in discussion.
What to Tell a Friend Who Is Struggling
If you start noticing one of your friends drifting off from a balanced, fulfilling lifestyle, consider talking to them. They might not even be aware of the problem they are having, or they might try to hide it out of shame, embarrassment or fear that they won’t be understood.
Many times, we share the same activities with our friends, and we end up making mistakes together. For example, friends who drink together might find it normal to binge every once in a while. But if one of your friends seems to have trouble stopping the drinking or keeps on getting in trouble because of it, it’s time to intervene with an honest talk.
When pointing out an issue that someone has, it won’t help to tell them that their behavior is wrong. Making them feel guilty or ashamed might not have the desired effect. Instead, try to empathize and assure them that you are there to support them through their recovery, that you will be close by if they want to reach out for help.
Telling a Friend About Your Mental Health Issue
If you are the one struggling with a mental health issue, it might be hard to open up about the subject. Even if talking about it with a friend can help, it’s important to know the limits you are willing to reach at a certain moment in time and be firm about them.
You don’t have to overshare details about your condition if you are not prepared for it. Choose a friend to talk to and before you get into the details that you want to discuss, make it clear for them that there are certain things that are off-limits for discussion. If it makes you feel more comfortable, you can ask them not to follow up with questions, or not to open the subject again.
The point is, you decide how much you want to share. It might be a pleasant surprise to see how it feels to share with a close person, and this might lead to a more open discussion later.
How to Get Help
While talking with friends about mental health conditions is a great way of supporting recovery, unfortunately, it’s not always enough to make a struggling person feel better. Certain mental health issues will worsen if left untreated by professionals, so we highly recommend getting in touch with a medical professional about these things.
If you are reluctant to visit a mental health professional, ask a friend to be with you when you have your first visit or talk to them about how it went and what expectations you have.
If a friend is reaching out to you about getting professional help, look for local medical centers with them and try to show them a lot of support and understanding. They are very brave for taking this first step and they are looking at a difficult period of recovery. Friends can be crucial in these moments!