Maybe you notice your friend is feeling down, your family member hasn’t reached out in a while, your coworker is not acting like themselves, etc. In these cases it may be nice to show your support and offer a helping hand, but knowing how to approach the situation is often the more difficult part.
Below are a few helpful pieces of advice for the support person to consider:
Are you ready?
Take a minute to check in on your own mental health. Are you in a good frame of mind yourself? Most importantly, are you ready to listen? It is beneficial to also know the signs of a mental health crisis.
Consider your environment.
Is there a space around that is relativity private and quiet? Sometimes people prefer walking rather than sitting face to face. Depending on the relationship you have with this person, try to consider what would make them most comfortable.
Starting the conversation.
Remain calm and make sure you are having open ended conversations. This person might not be someone you usually talk about feelings with, so consider starting with “I’ve noticed you’ve been ________ lately, how have you been?”
Make sure they know you are listening.
Body language is so important. Try to be mindful of this. You can show you are listening by keeping eye contact, nodding, not crossing your arms, putting your phone away, etc.
Additionally, throughout the whole conversation make sure to listen without judgment. You are there to support them. Often, we may feel we know what’s best, but we are not there to tell them how to feel better, but better yet support them in finding their own methods. In doing so, you can ask them about things they enjoy, and whether they have been doing these little things for their own mental health.
Help them figure out the next steps.
After figuring out what this person likes to do for fun, and the things that make them feel good, encourage them to make time for these activities in their day-to-day schedules. We must always make time for our mental health, as it impacts all areas of our lives.
In a more serious situation, you may want to encourage them to speak with a family doctor, or other healthcare professional.
Lastly, if this person seems suicidal, do not leave them alone. Seek professional help and call a helpline for assistance.
Remind them that you are still there for them even after the conversation. This will make the person feel cared for and let them know that you are always there to talk things through if they require additional peer support.
Take care of yourself.
Supporting someone who is going through a hard time or dealing with depression can be draining at times. Often as humans we can feed off others’ emotions and energy. It can become emotionally draining. Ensure you are taking time to also take care of your own mental health. It is okay to take a bit of a step back, focus on things you enjoy doing and surround yourself with friends and family. You can not support others when you are not also supporting your own well-being.