Mental health problems are so much more common than we think, with 1 in 4 people in the UK suffering from a mental illness every year according to Mind. The age group that suffer most from mental illnesses is young people, which is unsurprising because today young people have to deal with fluctuating hormone levels, body changes, huge pressure from school or university and the big question of “what will I do with my life?”, all at the same time. All of these factors, on top of any additional stresses such as family problems or money issues, can really get someone down and are largely responsible for the fact that 1 in 5 young people suffer from a mental illness in the UK.
Sometimes it is difficult to speak up if you are feeling down and admit to your friends and family that you need help and a lot of mental illness sufferers tend to push those closest to them away. But maintaining relationships, particularly friendships, is so important for people who suffer with their mental health because friends are amazing at helping their mates overcome isolation that often comes with mental health problems and generally feel a little better. If you think or know that your friend is suffering from a mental illness, here are the best ways to help them and ensure that they are getting the best possible help.
Do Your Research.
One of the best things to do for a friend suffering from a mental illness is to educate yourself on their specific diagnosis, because ‘mental illness’ is an umbrella term to refer to over 200 different illnesses and disorders, all with their own complex chains of symptoms and specific treatments. So it is extremely important to understand what the mental illness is that your friend is suffering from, how they are actually feeling and the best way that they can be helped. This will allow you to have better communication about the illness with your friend and help you realise the best ways to help them out.
If you have a friend suffering from a mental illness, it is extremely important to listen to what they have to say. Now, this may be an intimidating thought if you are scared of saying the wrong thing, but this doesn’t matter because you should be providing a safe space for your friend to talk to you, not the other way around. When listening to your friend, it is crucial to listen without judgement and to be completely open minded to their thoughts and feelings because at the end of the day, everyone is different and everyone’s feelings are valid. You also shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions, it is more than likely that your friend will want you to understand and clear up any confusions you might have. At the end of the day, a lot of people who suffer with mental illnesses want someone trustworthy to talk to and talk through their feelings with, so your job as a friend is to give it to them.
Advise Them To Seek Help.
If you have a friend who you think needs professional help who hasn’t yet seeked it, it is important that you encourage them to go to a GP or heal care professional for help. They can even start off by speaking to someone at the Samaritans or Mind if going to the doctor is too intimidating to begin with. Remind your friend that this doesn’t have to be a scary and intimidating experience, but that there are so many people who speak to professionals regarding their mental health every day. After all, you wouldn’t just leave a suspicious rash on your arm without having a doctor look at it, so why should you neglect your mental health?
Encourage Them To Go Out.
A lot of people who suffer with mental illnesses tend to not want to go out much and lose motivation to see their friends and family. But this will only send them into a downward spiral. It is crucial for people struggling with their mental health to keep their routine as normal as possible and try to maintain their relationships. If they really don’t feel like going out, try to make an effort to go to them instead. The effort will definitely be appreciated, even if you just end up binge-watching a Netflix series together.
Let Them Take Control.
A lot people who suffer with mental health illnesses feel like they cannot control their feelings, emotions, reactions and/or body. Because of this, many sufferers of mental illnesses appreciate having control over even the small things, so make an effort to let them have the reins and don’t judge them if they need to double lock the front door every night, it’s totally normal.
One of the most important things to do to help a friend suffering from a mental illness is to be patient. Recovering from a mental illness can be a long, slow and stressful process with a lot of ups and downs. But it is crucial to be patient and not become frustrated with your friend, instead you need to let them know that you are there to support them and will see them through to the end of their recovery process.
So there are the best ways to help a friend who is suffering from a mental illness. If you have a friend or family member suffering from a mental illness, it is so important to show that you are there for them and that you will be there throughout their recovery process.