It’s frustrating dealing with mental health issues including depression and whatnot. Not many people understand it and fewer people know what to do about it. People want to help, but their either too far away or don’t know what to do.
There’s a lot that can be done for those struggling with mental health. I don’t have all the answers, and it can be different from person to person, but here’s some ideas I’ve had.
This can be the hardest thing to do. When you want to help someone through a situation, you feel like you have to actually do something. Something complicated or involved. Maybe you need training or a book with steps on what to do. But often times, the most effective help you can offer is a sympathetic ear.
Take time to listen, really listen. Ask questions. You’re not going to understand everything, but that’s okay. Show concern, empathy, and just listen. It doesn’t feel like you’re doing much, but time spent listening can be the most valuable thing in the world. People want to know they’re valued and being heard—listening is one way to show that.
2. Be There
Sometimes a person having a hard time just needs a presence nearby. Maybe that’s a friend watching Stranger Things 2 with them or simply sharing the same room. You don’t need to actively engage with each other but they need someone around them. Whether there’s talking, eating, or silence, having someone that cares nearby can be comforting and reassuring.
3. Gently Shift Focus
Depression, anxiety, and other related mental challenges can be all-consuming. Sometimes the person dealing with these issues can’t see anything that’s right in front of them. Or perhaps they can’t do things for themselves. Whatever the case, sometimes they need someone to step in and redirect their attention.
One way to accomplish this would be to suggest a simple activity like taking a walk down the street. It may seem insignificant, but a change in scenery with some fresh air and scenery really help to clear their mindset a bit. The problem is that a depressive might not be able to do this themselves; they need another person to gently push them to get out. Someone to be there to hold their hand.
4. Encourage Creativity
Engaging the mind in creative activities is therapeutic. It centers your attention on a single task, gives an outlet for emotional expression, and helps to organize thoughts. These are all beneficial for a depressive.
Suggest activities such as colouring, drawing, painting, cooking, looking at clouds, knitting, making music, writing, brainstorm movie ideas, sculpt clay, build a cardboard town, draw tattoos with markers, put together outfits, etc. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece or anything complex, and you might have to lead by example, but make sure that it’s a stress-free outlet for creative expression.
I don’t know if this is making sense. It’s late and I’m not good at explaining things right now. I just… I wanted to share some simple ways to help those around you. Even if your friends aren’t depressed or dealing with mental health issues, these are good ways to be a better friend. Everybody needs help and encouragement. Listening, being there, and sharing activities are good no matter what. And for those who are struggling, these simple acts can make a world of difference.
One thought on “Four ways to help a struggling friend.”
You made a lot of sense there, Matthew. I should hang onto this post.