If you’re reading this, listen.
I am the current treasurer of If You’re Reading This and I want to share some advice on how to support those around you who are currently struggling with their mental health. I have personally had difficulties listening and expressing my sympathy with friends who have trusted me in times of need. I remember feeling helpless and not having a clue how to react. After reading this letter, I hope this will never happen to you, and instead you will create a more supportive community.
Supportive friends and family members play one of the most important roles in the mental health recovery process, it is the least we can do for a friend in need to reach out and act as a helping hand.
Become educated. In order to understand what your friend or relative is going through, you need to first become informed on whatever mental health issue they are facing. Knowing its symptoms, course and consequences can better help you support your friend or family member. For instance, mental health issues are not static illnesses, meaning that a smile or a good day does not signify that everything is resolved. But bare in mind that while educating yourself is an important first step, only qualified medical professionals should give medical advice.
When someone confides in you, it is imperative to listen. Try not to change the subject, but rather express your concern and support. We all have a tendency to give advice or dismiss people’s worries, but in this case you need to be attentive. In order to show your concern, it is important to ask if they need any type of assistance. This can be anything, from school work to grocery shopping. Recognize that your capacity to change their circumstance may be limited, but if you can make their life easier, even if in a small way, it is worth it.
One of the most difficult stages in the mental health recovery process one has to face is the motivation to seek help. It’s okay to express that while you hear them and you understand what they’re going through, you don’t feel qualified to tell them how they should best cope. At times, telling your friend or relative that they need to seek professional help can be difficult, as they might react negatively. However, it is important that you encourage them to seek this help. To make it less daunting, you could even offer to go with them or simply make the appointment yourself. If they are not comfortable seeking one-on-one counselling, there are online services that provide support services. If they are still worried or don’t respond well, you could encourage them to speak with another close friend or relative.
At the end of the day, listening will go a long way when it comes to the recovery process. It demonstrates that no matter what, they will always have someone by their side.
If you’re reading this, be there for others.
Alexander H., IfYoureReadingThis.org UVA Chapter Treasurer