You don’t need to be a health professional to be a mate, in fact, you don’t need any special skills at all, apart from one thing - You need to be willing to do it, you need to be conscious of how your friend is feeling and you need to know that is easier than you think. Here’s some stuff you can do if you think your mate is feeling crap:
1. Start a conversation, ask them “How’s it going?” Three simple words that can have a huge impact and make a big difference. You could even text it, it’s all about making them feel like you really want to know how they are doing and that you’re there.
2. Really listen, so ideally don't start up a caring conversation when the football is on. Also, try not to make assumptions based on any of the stuff you’ve seen or read, and work on asking open questions like “How have you been feeling?” Or “What's that been like for you?” This helps them to open up rather than ending the conversation with a yes or a no.
3. Patience is golden. There will be times when your friend is less willing or less comfortable to talk about what’s going on, understandably, it’s hard to be sociable when you’re going through shit, so don’t get frustrated, keep putting in the effort, and be patient. Simply knowing you’re there when they’re ready to talk will mean a lot to them.
4. Be who you’ve always been. You don’t have to turn into a white coat-wearing mental health expert. Even if they are having a tough time, they’re still your mate and you love them, so don’t treat them any differently, keep them in your social calendar and be sure to invite them to everything you always have done.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can help, let them know that they can ask you to help when THEY need it, it may just be a regular, quick check-in or something more. Mental health problems can be exhausting, so they may be struggling to keep up with day to day stuff, you know them well, if it’s the right thing to do, ask if you can help
Keep in touch, use your ears and don’t be afraid of the difficult stuff, just listen, don’t make a big deal of how your mate is feeling, don't take the piss out of him either, and above all else, just be there.
We can get through pretty much anything with a friend beside us.
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