I want to be there for...

You might have noticed a change in the way your mate is using social media. For example, they might be posting way more or may have gone completely silent. It could be nothing, but it could also be a sign that they’re experiencing a mental health problem. Either way, they may well need your support.

Tips:

  • Keep a close eye out for subtle changes in their language or the way they are using their social media pages i.e. posting cries for help or cryptic messages
  • If you are still worried, send them a private message to ask how they are doing - they are more likely to respond to this than a public message.
  • If they’ve completely disappeared from social media, try get in touch by other means or contact their friends & family.

If your mate's going through a tough time, stepping in and showing you care could make all the difference. 
 

"In a desperate plea, I decided to open up about my struggles through social media and then in face to face conversation with my loved ones, friends especially. I was so overwhelmed by the support that I received from my friends and ever since I started speaking, my friends have done everything they can to build back up my confidence and slowly but surely helping me to recover."

It’s possible that someone experiencing a mental health problem might isolate themselves. Having a mental health problem can be really draining, and low moods or anxious feelings can make it tough to be sociable - they may also feel like their presence places a burden on their friends and family.

Tips:

  • Stay in contact and be yourself
  • It might feel frustrating if you’re putting in effort, but try and be patient - things are probably hard for them.
  • They probably appreciate you being in touch even if they’re not responding - a mental health problem can be overwhelming and can make it difficult to maintain a ‘normal’ social life.

It could be nothing, but if you’re mate’s hard to reach, it might be a sign that they’re not well, so stay in touch.

“Never underestimate just how powerful a single message can be when someone is struggling. Just that simple act of letting a person know you are thinking of them can truly make all the difference .”

Your mate might seem more distant or distracted than usual. It could be nothing, but there might be something more serious on their mind. Either way, try not to take offence, as they may well need your support.

Tips:

  • Be patient, talk about everyday things, and don’t change how you act around them
  • Don’t assume that it’s a problem with you and take offence!
  • You could ask them about what’s on their mind.

If you’re mate’s acting differently, don’t shy away from it. They might need a friend more than ever.

“When I did get discharged I continued to struggle with a very low mood, but again my friends kept getting in touch. Another old mate who was temporarily between jobs made a point of coming over and taking me out for walks with his dog. Stomping through the bridle paths of Surrey in the freezing cold, doing his best at speaking for both of us as I struggled to get more than two words out whilst I just despaired of ever being “me” again or ever being able to work again.”

Firstly, it’s good that your friend has opened up to you - it lets you know that they trust you, and you must be a good mate if you’ve created space for them to talk about what’s happening. And there are some straightforward things you can do to help.

Tips:

  • You don’t have to fix it, but being there will help them. Ask them if there’s anything specific that you could do.
  • Don’t treat them differently - keep doing the things you’d normally do together.
  • It might help you to find out more about their condition, if they mentioned one.

How you respond when a mate opens up to you about their mental health can change their life. Be there for them.

“I was absolutely terrified that the first person I opened up to would think of me, or treat me, differently. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I forced myself into isolation for days on end - but thankfully my friends were there for me.” - Rory

Talking about suicidal feelings can save lives, so always take it seriously if a friend opens up to you. Asking them about suicidal feelings won’t increase their risk of taking their own life - instead, it will show them someone cares, and give them an opportunity to talk through their problems.

Tips:

  • Don’t shy away from the topic. Ask how they’re doing, and if they’re being cryptic, try to help them explain
  • Try not to be judgemental or dismissive in response to what they’ve said
  • If the person needs further support that you can’t provide, signpost them to Samaritans or to the emergency services, depending on their needs.

While it can seem scary, taking the time to allow someone to speak about how they’re feeling can be a huge help.

Read guidance from the Samaritans on what you can do if you’re worried someone is suicidal.

“Contemplating suicide, alone, as a 20-year old who was meant to be out enjoying the ‘best years of his life’, was an incredibly difficult thing to think about every day. But, a few conversations truly saved my life.” - George

There are a lot of myths and false beliefs around self harm that can stop people reaching out for support. Not everyone who self-harms has the same experience, but often it is a way to cope with severe and real emotional pain, so your friend may need your support now more than ever.

Tips:

  • If someone opens up to you about self-harm, try not to panic or show judgement. It can be a hard thing to talk about, and your reaction might have an impact on their willingness to talk about it in future.
  • Listen to what they’re saying and let them know you’re there for them
  • If they’re open to it, talk to them about the feelings that are driving the self harm, and if it feels appropriate, encourage them to seek help.
  • Self-harm is not the same as attempted suicide, but someone who is self-harming is at increased risk of suicide - the only way to know is to ask.

If you want to find out more, you can read Mind’s information on self harm.

“I remember the first time I ever confided in someone that I’d been self-harming like it happened yesterday, and not for the reasons you might think. There was no judgement, no fear, no nastiness at all. She simply said that she was there if I needed her.” – Millie

Sometimes the impact of a mental health problem, combined with other pressures in life, can be too much for someone, and they might neglect to look after their appearance or body.
Maybe they’re not eating well, or they’re not keeping up with personal hygiene.

Tips:

  • Ask them how things are going
  • Listen, don’t judge
  • If they’re feeling overwhelmed, you might be able to help them with particular tasks that they can’t do. If it feels right, ask if there’s anything you can help with.

If your mate’s going through a hard time, your attitude can be the difference.

“I have horrendous weeks where I leave the washing up, forget to clean my teeth, don’t remember to empty the bins, or pay bills. I forget to shower and my appetite is never regular. Friends can think I’m lazy, when in reality I am exhausted.” - Cat

Some people with a mental health problem may experience disordered thoughts or hallucinations. You might have noticed a friend having difficulty thinking, expressing unusual beliefs, or perceiving that things have changed around them. These could be early signs of psychosis, which sounds scary - but you can help them, by listening and helping them seek professional support should they need it.

Tips:

  • Try not to dismiss what they’re saying or doing: it feels real for your friend, so don’t make them feel stupid or lesser.
  • At the same time, don’t encourage delusions, or agree that you also see or hear something that isn’t there.
  • This might be a bit unsettling for you, so reach out to talk to someone if you need to.

You can be the difference to someone experiencing psychosis. No matter how daunting it may seem, it’s scarier for them - listen, and don’t shy away from it.

“I was a newly qualified teacher and experienced acute depression followed by a psychotic episode. I couldn’t have got through the experience without family and friends” – Jen

Almost one in three of us has experienced a mental health problem while in employment. That might be more common than you thought. Still, if you’re managing someone with a mental health problem and you’re not sure how to respond.

Tips:

  • You don’t have to be an expert to be in your colleague’s corner; listening and not judging are some of the most significant things you can do.
  • Take their lead: show an interest in their condition and how it affects them, but be aware that it can be hard to have conversations about your mental health at work, so be patient.
  • In the longer term, having regular catch-ups and supervisions can help both parties recognise stress or other signs to watch out for. You may also need to consider any adjustments you need to make to support them.

Read Mind’s guide to managing someone with a mental health problem

“I kept my anxiety and depression concealed from my employer for as long as I possibly could, because I was worried people would treat me differently or it would affect my chance of progression. It was only when I got to breaking point that I finally had a conversation with my manager - Ruth. Luckily for me, she has been incredible in supporting me over the last 18 months and this has been a significant factor in my recovery.”

It might feel awkward to ask a colleague about time off work. You might be worried it will be embarrassing for them, or that you’re pushing them into revealing something personal, but it’s likely your colleague will be grateful that it’s acknowledged, as pretending nothing has happened might make them feel more isolated.

Tips:

  • Just asking how they are can really help.
  • Be aware that they might not want to talk about it - it can be hard to open up about mental health at work, so make sure to respect that.
  • As an alternative, small, kind gestures - like making a cup of tea - can help them feel like part of the team again.
“Returning to work after two months off was very hard. I was really worried about what colleagues would think of me, and what they would say, and whether I would relapse. I didn’t. I found lots of people who cared how I was, tried to help, and several who confessed their own mental health stories.”

It’s good that you noticed this! We all respond to pressure in different ways, and some of us express this more outwardly. But if your colleague seems more stressed than usual, and it’s been going on a while, it could be a sign of a mental health problem.

Tips:

  • Whatever the case, just asking how they’re doing can go a long way.
  • Try to take their lead: they might not want to talk about it, and that’s okay - it can be really tricky to start talking about your mental health at work.
  • If you have a good relationship and it feels appropriate, you might investigate what changes they (or your employer) could make to manage their stress.
  • When asking someone how they’re doing, you might want to do this away from other people
“And when he saw me struggling at work, he was there for me. When it came to the crunch, when I needed someone to have my back about something that was making my anxiety worse – Tom stepped up.” – Lucy

1 in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem. That’s three students in the average classroom, so mental health problems are likely to affect your child, whether they experience it or their friends do.

Talking openly about mental health with your child is really important: if they’re aware of what mental health problems are, it will help them to understand their own wellbeing and what’s going on with their family and friends. It can be difficult to know where to start, but being open about mental health will really pay off in the future!

Tips:

  • Find ways to talk about mental health that work for you. If you have a friend or family member who has a mental health problem, talking about them might be a good way of starting a dialogue, or you could discuss celebrities who are talking about their mental health in the media.
  • It can be easier to talk side-by-side, rather than face-to-face. Talking when shopping, cooking or driving can take the pressure off – you don’t have to have a formal sit-down.
  • Talking about mental health problems, even relatively sensitive subjects like self-harm and suicide won’t make them any more likely to experience it. Actually’ being open about it might mean they feel comfortable asking for help sooner.

If your child has been diagnosed with a mental health problem, it can be daunting to know what to do next. But you don’t have to fix the problem – just being there for them will be a big help.

Tips:

  • It may be helpful to do some research on the condition that they’re experiencing, so you can better understand what they’re going through. We have some information and personal stories here <link>
  • Be patient: there are no quick fixes when it comes to mental health. You’ll want them to get better, but putting pressure on them to improve may make things worse for them.
  • Let them know you’re open to talking about it, but try not to pressure them into a conversation.
My mum’s impatience with me turned into sympathy and a desire to understand me better. Although she still thinks depression is a giant mystery that she’ll never entirely fathom, just knowing she’s there and willing to spend time on me is a great help. – Lisa

Two thirds of young people with a mental health problem say that fear of judgement has stopped them telling a friend. Getting support from parents, teachers and professionals is important, but having a mate in their corner can make a big difference too. If you’re open about mental health, you can show your children that it’s ok to be open and talk about mental health problems.

Tips:

  • Let them know that just being there for their friend can make a big difference, and they don’t have to be an expert to help their friend
  • Let them know that you’re there for them, and happy to talk about it and support them if it becomes too much.
  • You could do some research online and find out more about the condition that their friend is experiencing – this will help them to build confidence.   
  • Watch our ‘in your corner’ films with your child, to show how big a difference it can make for them to be there for their friend.
“Luckily, it doesn’t have to be difficult to be in someone’s corner. There are lots of ways you can help, and not all of them have to be as hard as trying to have a direct conversation about their struggles face to face.” – Rachel

Sometimes your child might not want to talk to you about anything, let alone their mental health. This can be tough for you, as you obviously want to make sure they are safe and well.

Tips:

  • There’s still a lot of stigma and silence around mental health in our society, meaning it can be really hard to open up about mental health problems – you’re child might still be coming to terms with what’s happening.
  • Sometimes the time and space needs to be right – let them know you’re thinking about them and are there if they need you.
  • Asking open questions, like “how was your day”, given them room to respond how they want. Closed (yes or no) questions can have the effect of shutting down a conversation.   
  • Reinforce the fact that mental health problems are common – 1 in 4 of us will experience them in our lifetime – and they aren’t something to be ashamed of.
My dad doesn’t talk very much but he always listens to me about whatever I want to talk about and this has helped me to get things off my chest and feel relaxed. Your child may not want to talk at first, or may only say a few words, but always reassure them they can talk to you as little or as much as they want in their own time. – Ziaul