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How to talk to a friend who you think might be struggling with their mental health

At least 1 in 5 young people will experience difficulties with their mental health (World Health Organisation, 2013), so chances are, you know someone who is battling at this very moment.  Sometimes it’s difficult to know if someone is struggling, as it can be hard for people to open up to others about their mental health and ask for help, even if they want to.  But you might have noticed small changes in a friend, family member or colleague, or know that they have gone through a hard time recently.  These things might make you question if they are experiencing mental health difficulties.

Earlier in the week, we shared a few top tips for keeping you mentally well both during the lockdown (and beyond), together with the support of Manchester Mind. We’ve teamed up with them as part of Mental Health Awareness Week again to share some really simple things you can do to spread kindness and help others who you think might be struggling to reach out.

It can seem daunting reaching out to someone you think is struggling, you might feel like you don’t know what to say or do but a small gesture will go a long way to support the person you are worried about.

Start small: Sending a simple message saying “hello, how are you doing?” or even a meme that you think will make them smile with a message like “I thought you’d find this funny, hope you’re doing okay”, is a good place to start. This will help the other person know that you are thinking about them.

Stay in touch: Try to not be offended if they take a long time to reply or don’t reply to your first message. Sometimes when people are struggling with their mental health, they find it really hard to speak to people, so it may take them some time. Don’t give up after your first try; message again to show you really care about how they are doing.

Suggest an activity: Maybe a gaming night, Netflix party, or a meet up for a walk in the park. Doing an activity together can help show the other person that you care and that you’re interested in spending time with them, albeit remotely at the current time. Spending more time together may help them feel more comfortable with you, which might lead to them feeling able to share how they have been feeling.

Be aware of changes: If someone is struggling with their mental health, you might notice some changes to their personality. For example, they might become more angry, tired, forgetful, worried or sensitive. Bear this in mind when talking to them and try not to take things personally. Be kind and patient with them. 

Listen: If the person you are worried about opens up to you, be there to listen. It can feel hard knowing what to say, but don’t worry about ‘not saying the right thing’. You don’t need to try and ‘fix’ them or give expert advice. Simply being there, being understanding and non-judgemental, and hearing what they have to say is a massive step in that person’s journey towards feeling better.

If you are worried about someone’s mental health, don’t be afraid to suggest that they phone a helpline (such as Samaritans on 116 123) or speak to their GP about how they have been feeling.

This year’s Mental Health Awareness theme is “kindness” and so during these difficult times, we encourage everyone to engage in one or more simple acts from 18 May throughout the month, and beyond…

#ManchesterKind #NeverMoreNeeded

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