Talking to a Friend about Getting Mental Health Help
Have you noticed one of your friends is struggling and seems depressed, detached, and generally unhappy? If so, they might be dealing with mental health issues.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than one in five U.S. adults experienced mental health issues in 2019. Unsurprisingly, these figures are even higher in the COVID-19 era, as the pandemic threw a wrench into all of our life plans. To illustrate, a recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 41.1 percent of adults were dealing with anxiety or depression in January 2021.
If your friend is having a hard time with life, you can take comfort in the fact that they’re by no means alone.
By encouraging your friend to think about getting mental health help, you can put them on a path that leads to conquering these issues — helping them live their best life along the way.
Signs That Indicate My Friend Needs Therapy
Talking to a friend about their mental health isn’t easy. After all, you don’t want to jump to conclusions and project mental health problems where they might not exist. Being a little down every now and again is perfectly normal and doesn’t always require therapy.
That said, there are some telltale signs that might very well mean that your friend needs therapy, including
- Increased substance abuse
- A loss of interest in hobbies and activities they enjoy
- Significant life changes, like breaking up with a partner, getting fired, or losing a loved one
- Making strange posts on social media or sending awkward text messages
- Detachment from social life, leading to isolation
If your friend keeps telling you that they don’t feel well — and doctors keep telling them they are fine — your friend may very well be dealing with a mental health issue.
Even so, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the best person to suggest your friend consider seeing a therapist. Up next, we’ll take a look at whether you’re qualified to raise the issue — or whether someone else might be a better messenger.
How to Determine If You’re the Right Person to Say Something
Just because someone might be dealing with mental health issues doesn’t mean you should automatically be the one to suggest they see a therapist.
For example, if an acquaintance at work doesn’t seem to be having the best day, you probably shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that they need to see a therapist. Chances are such a suggestion wouldn’t be well-received.
As you begin navigating the difficult waters surrounding encouraging your friend to get professional mental health help, here are some questions to ask yourself to gauge whether you’re the best person for the job:
- Have I known this person for a long time and do I know them on a deep enough level to comment on their mental health?
- Do I have a good idea about what this individual is going through or do I simply suspect there’s something boiling beneath the surface?
- If I were to talk to this person about their mental health, are they likely to be receptive to my suggestion or brush it off?
- Am I concerned about my friend’s physical safety — and, if I were to suggest they seek professional help, my own?
If you’re happy with the way you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to start the process of convincing your friend to get help.
Selling Your Friend on Getting Help
Everyone is different. While one friend might be perfectly receptive to getting help — maybe they’ve even been thinking about it themselves — someone else might be absolutely against it, to the point they get furious you’d even suggest it in the first place.
As you begin selling your friend on getting help, you first need to prepare yourself for potential reactions. Try to imagine how your friend might react, and have a plan for how to respond to a range of scenarios (e.g., getting angry, dismissing it as a joke, or being agreeable).
After you’ve done that, you need to pick the right place and choose the right time. For the best results, you’ll want to bring up this sensitive topic in a private, comfortable situation. Be gentle in your approach; you don’t want to turn your friend away from your ideas by being brash, aggressive, or condescending.
If you’ve had experience with therapy yourself, this is an ideal opportunity to share that information with your friend to let them know that you don’t think less of them; you’ve been in the same place yourself, and therapy helped you climb out of the proverbial hole.
Most importantly, you need to make sure your friend knows why you’re bringing this up in the first place. It’s not because you’re judging them or think they’re crazy. It’s because you genuinely care about them, are sad to see them in a dark place, and really want what’s best for them.
Last but not least, bring some data to the discussion. Let them know that they’re not alone and there’s no stigma around mental health; more than 40 million U.S. adults sit down with therapists each year.
How to Help Someone Who Is Struggling Emotionally
In the ideal world, we’d all be perfectly emotionally and mentally stable all year round. But with all the curveballs life throws our way, that’s simply not possible for millions upon millions of Americans.
In addition to suggesting your struggling friend seek out a qualified therapist, you should also make sure they know that you are always there to offer your love and support. Be understanding, approachable, and available. If your friend is depressed and is refusing to hang out or leave their house, respect their boundaries. But also offer to spend time with them however they’d be most comfortable.
Invite your friend to go on a hike. Cook them a meal. Take them to a concert. Binge-watch a new Netflix series. Go to a flea market. Buy arts and crafts supplies and co-create a masterpiece. The list goes on and on.
Bottom line? Be there for your friend through the thick and thin and make sure they know they’re not alone — and that you’re going to get past these issues together.
When you’re ready, help your friend find a qualified local therapist to begin the healing process.
© Copyright 2021 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by GoodTherapy