How to be compassionate when your friend is suffering from their mental health

Struggling with mental health is hard – everyone knows that. What’s also hard is being there to support a friend who’s suffering. Here’s how to be compassionate when your friend is suffering from their mental health:

Send them regular messages

Don’t overwhelm them – some people don’t really like talking when they’re feeling down – but the odd message every few days to let them know you’re thinking about them will go a long way. You don’t have to give them some miraculous advice that’ll suddenly make them feel better, but a simple ‘hey, I’m here if you need’ can really make a huge difference. It takes two seconds to do it but really, it could save someone’s life.

Remember, they’re still THEM

When your friend is suffering from their mental health remember to separate their illness from the person you know and love. When I’m depressed, I get grumpy, selfish, and hugely introverted… I’m basically not a super fun person to be around. But I’ve come to realise that that isn’t really me, and I can’t help that I get like that. So, if one of your friends is acting a bit out of character – it’s normal. It’s frustrating, yes, but if you’re doing fine, then try and keep in mind that they’re likely going through something hard. It can be annoying when someone who’s usually so chill and chirpy is suddenly sullen and snappy, but it’s temporary. Remember that it’s hard for them.

It’s the little things

If you’re a housemate, make dinner with them. Watch TV with them. Bring them a cup of tea. Offer to do their washing up. A tiny, TINY gesture by you will be so much appreciated by them. When you’re feeling low, everything can feel so overwhelming. Doing the smallest thing to help relieve them will make their life that much easier.

Invite them out

They may keep saying no to everything, but trust me, NEVER stop inviting them out. Though they may well continue to say no, if you stop inviting someone out it can be interpreted badly, especially by someone suffering from a mental health issue. Though it may seem illogical – and in many ways, it is – depression or anxiety isn’t logical.

Depression or anxiety often won’t allow you to differentiate between someone disliking you and someone presuming that you won’t want to come out anyway. Depression at uni is serious and could have affected people from an early age through to uni.

Accept there is a limit to what you can do

You can’t save someone or cure someone, so don’t try to. You’re also not a mental health professional or a counsellor, so you can’t be expected to say the right thing all the time. Don’t try and put pressure on yourself to suddenly become a psychology expert overnight – but just continue to be the best friend that you can be.

Don’t give up on them

As aforementioned, it can be frustrating when you’re waiting when your friend is suffering from their mental health. But don’t give up on them – keep reminding yourself that if they can get through suffering themselves, you can get through waiting for them to recover. Be patient.

Don’t do anything you’ll regret when they’re recovered

Don’t take it personally if your friend or housemate is isolating themselves or snapping at you. It can be hard, especially when it takes its toll on you, but get angry at depression – don’t get angry at the individual. It’s not their fault. Don’t jeopardise a long-term friendship because of a short-term issue. And bear in mind that your friend will likely remember how you treat them during their depressive episode forever – so be gentle with them.

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