If your friend is experiencing mental health problems, there are a lot of things - big and small - that you can do to help. These stories are about the good and bad ways that friends have responded to someone with a mental health problem.
My time at uni might have been improved if someone had told me that it's ok not to 'fit in' and not to enjoy it. In fact, I'd say over half the people I've spoken to have said they didn't enjoy uni, so I don't know where we got this idea that it's meant to be "the time of your life" where you make your friends for life and get up to lots of antics and partying.
Many people believe having bipolar means simply dealing with alternating very high and very low moods, but there is so much more to it. During a manic phase, the person can experience delusional hallucinations, which can be terrifying. During a depressive phase, the person may become very forgetful or indecisive. It isn’t as simple as “today I’m happy, tomorrow I’m sad”. It can be life-threatening. So please, the next time you crack a “bipolar joke” – bear this in mind.
If you'd asked me about my mental health a year ago, I would have told you I was fine when really, I was struggling. I had a mental illness and I was hiding it. I didn't want to tell anyone because I didn't want people to think I was weird, dangerous or "crazy". The stigma has resulted in me feeling excluded and unable to fit in. It has made me feel isolated and like there is something wrong with me.
It’s a question I often ask myself. Should I be honest? Lay all my cards on the table? Do my closest friends and family need to know every little detail about my struggle? If I did tell them, would they even care? Or would they just give me the generic responses I’d heard my whole life? “Everyone feels like that”, “No one likes work, you just do it”, and the ever popular “Man up!” After all they probably have their own issues to deal with, right?