It’s World Friendship Day today! We all know how important friends can be – they make us smile, they keep our secrets and they’re by our side when we need them most. But, with 1 in 6 people experiencing a common mental health problem such as anxiety or depression in the past week, it’s important we encourage each other to reach out to those we can trust. Mental health can be a tricky conversation. It can be so difficult to know what to say and how to say it, that people will avoid the topic altogether. That’s why we’ve put together a list of questions to ask your friend about their mental health.
Somehow, our best friends are often the first ones to notice and/or say something if they think we’re not feeling okay and they can be an amazing source of relief. But, it’s important to remember that if you’re one trying to get your friend to open up about their mental health, to let them lead the discussion at their own pace. Don’t put pressure on them to tell you anything they aren’t ready to talk about. Talking can take a lot of trust and courage; you might be the first person they have been able to talk to about this.
Now, let’s say you’ve asked how your friend is doing and they’ve admitted that they’re struggling at the minute. How do you respond in a respectful way? You want to show you care, but don’t know how to express your concern and not hurt the person’s feelings at the same time. Problems are not a one-size-fits-all and neither are answers. It’s important to be understanding, patient and empathetic. Ask more – assume less.
That’s why on this international day of friendship, we wanted to share with you 10 questions that you can ask your friend about their mental health.
Use these questions to talk to your friend about their mental health:
- “Can you help me understand what it’s like living with your condition, so I can help you in the future?“
- “Is there anything you need from me or something I can do to help you?“
- “Can we go out together this week – get a coffee, go for a walk or see a movie?“
- “Do you need to talk?“
- “What can I do to be there for you, and help you feel supported?“
- “How are you? You don’t seem like yourself, and I want to know how you’re really feeling because I care about you.“
- “Are there any signs that you’re struggling, that I should notice or be aware of?“
- “Can I support you in seeking treatment, if that’s something you’re open to or want to do?“
- “What might progress with your mental health look like?“
- “Are there any topics of conversation we should avoid?“
Now, let’s talk about why you should ask your friend who’s struggling with their mental health, these types of questions:
It’s always best to start with open-ended questions when you’re trying to start a discussion about mental health. Simple, open-ended questions will not only provide insight into what your bestie is facing, but will let them know you care.
However, even if your friend knows you’re there for them, it might be tricky for them to tell you they’re struggling. Sometimes we say we’re fine when we’re not, so ask twice – but again, don’t pressure.
Knowing what to keep an eye out for can help you be there for your friend without them always having to say “I need help”, so it’s important to do your research beforehand, to make sure you’re prepared.
Remember: no one expects you to solve all of your friend’s problems. Just because you are a trusted friend, doesn’t mean they can’t still reach out for professional support.
There is help out there!
P.S. You can and do make a big difference just by being there as a friend. Even if you don’t succeed in getting them to open up, just keep checking in. Sometimes all it takes is to know that someone is there.
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