How to Help a Friend Struggling with Their Mental Health
With suicide being the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, it is important to recognize the warning signs that our loved ones may be struggling and need support. Read on to learn more about how you can support a friend who needs help to get through to the other side on their path toward wellness and recovery.
Recognizing the Signs of Depression
Often when people lose a loved one to suicide, they find themselves saying that they never noticed anything wrong or they never seemed like they were struggling. Depression and suicidal thoughts and behaviors can often go unrecognized if you don’t know what you’re on the lookout for. Here are some of the most common signs that your friend or family member may be struggling with depression.
Expressing feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
Appetite or weight changes
Sleeping more often than usual
Having trouble concentrating on work or school
Having unexplained aches or pains
Having more frequent stomach issues
Supporting Your Loved One
If you notice that your friend is displaying signs that they may be suffering from depression, do your best to be supportive and encouraging to help them to see beyond their negative thoughts and feelings.
Pay attention to Their Triggers
If you notice that certain situations, conversation topics, or circumstances make your friend feel significantly worse, these may be triggering for them. Actively pay attention to their mood shifts in these situations and ask them if they need anything or if there is anything that you can do to help to make them feel more at ease.
Help Them to Calm Down
When you notice that your friend is feeling anxious or overwhelmed in a given situation, it’s important that you try to soothe them before asking what’s wrong. This can help to ease these distressing emotions and make it easier to communicate their feelings afterward. Try getting them to practice deep breathing exercises, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth to ease their intense emotions.
Validate their Feelings
Once your loved one is calmer, try asking them what is causing them to feel such intense feelings of distress. Rather than saying they’re tough and they’ll get through it, try to validate their feelings and hear them out. If you try to diminish what is causing them distress, it can make matters worse.
Try using understanding sentences to help them feel validated like any of the following:
I understand why __ may be upsetting
I understand that you’re worried about __
These feelings can be overwhelming
How can I help to make you feel more relaxed?
What can I do to help support you?
Do you want to talk about it?
Ultimately, these types of phrases and sentences can help your loved one to feel less alone and like you genuinely care about what they’re feeling and experiencing.
Be a Listening Ear, Without Judgement
When a loved one feels intense negative emotion, it may be difficult for them to open up to you. When they do, although you may feel intimidated or scared that you may say the wrong thing, try listening to them without passing judgment. Talking about feelings out loud can be cathartic in itself.
When to Encourage Your Friend to Seek Therapy
While it is normal to experience distressing emotions like anxiety and depression every once in a while, there comes the point where they are beyond just thoughts and feelings. When you’re on the outside looking in, it can be difficult to tell that someone’s mental health is suffering, but certain social signs and symptoms may suggest that they can benefit from talking to a professional about what they are experiencing to help them to cope. Here’s what you should know.
They Seem Withdrawn
A common sign that someone is dealing with mental illness or their mental health is suffering is that they seem socially withdrawn. It’s fairly common for people to feel disconnected from things that they once enjoyed doing. If you notice a sudden disinterest in social activities and hobbies and an increase in practicing self-isolation, it may be worth reaching out and checking on your friend.
They Seem More Sensitive
If you notice that your friend is having extreme mood swings, especially with negative emotions, they may be struggling with something emotionally. Some common signs that point to mental health issues include suddenly experiencing intense anger, sadness, anxiousness, and irritability.
You Notice a Change in Their Sleeping Patterns
While many factors may alter a person’s sleep patterns, mental health issues are definitely among them. For example, depression is a common cause of a sudden increase in tiredness and extended periods of sleep. In contrast, anxiety may cause someone to sleep less.
Seeking Help at Tapestry
Whether you believe you or a loved one may be suffering from depression and displaying suicidal behavior, seeking help is the first step toward wellness and recovery. At Tapestry, our treatment programs are dedicated to understanding our clients as whole people with varied life experiences.
Whether you have questions about mental health or how to support a loved one struggling with their mental health, we are here for you. Contact us today by filling out a confidential form or give us a call at (828) 490-4032.