It’s always hard when you know that someone else is struggling, but you don’t know what to do or say to help them. It can have an affect on your mental health too, making you feel inadequate and hopeless, but I’m here to tell you that you are none of those things. You are wonderful and amazing and a whole host of other positive adjectives that I can’t be bothered to list 😉 I know that me saying that won’t make you feel any better about your unawareness of how to help, so I am here today to help you to help them 🙂
First of all, it’s super important that you know how to approach the subject delicately. Before going up to them directly to ask them what’s up, its a good idea to establish what you think they are struggling with. What is it that’s making you believe that your friend is struggling? Are they showing any signs/adopting any behaviour that gives it away? If so, what?
Once you have a pretty good idea of what it is they’re finding hard at the moment, then you can start to plan how to bring up the subject without sounding too pushy/invasive. I would encourage you to maybe invite your friend out for coffee or for a walk, somewhere you can have a good chat in a relaxed, chilled out environment. Don’t make the situation awkward, just treat your friend how you would always treat them, they are still the same person! Try to be sensitive as you word your questions. Give them chance to answer you, don’t just talk at them. Remember, the whole point of this is to let your friend talk to someone, they shouldn’t feel as if they are being told what is wrong with them. Be there to listen, and be prepared to lend a shoulder to cry on.
If your friend opens up, great. It means that they trust you enough to share what is going on inside their brain, and that’s a hard thing to share. Make them aware that you are there for them no matter what, and that whatever they have told you will not change your friendship. If they have shared something that you believe might put themselves/someone else at risk, it’s important that you do tell someone else. Examples of when you might need to tell someone include if they have indicated that they are suicidal and are planning to kill themselves, or if they disclose that someone is the cause of their struggling. It might be a good idea to tell your friend before telling someone else so they don’t feel distrust in you. Struggling with knowing who to tell? If you believe your friend is at immediate risk, ringing the police is a good shout, otherwise try to get in contact with a helpline (a quick google search will send you to the right place), or if you know their parents, try to have a confidential talk with them about what is going on.
Make sure your friend knows that you are always there for them, no matter what. Emphasise how much you care about them. Make sure they know how loved they are.
Don’t ask about their struggles once and never approach the subject again. Even if your friend appears to be doing better, looks can be deceiving. You will never truly know what is going on in someone elses head. A smile can be false. Try to devote some time to regularly check in with your friend to see how they’re doing, without seeming like you are invading their privacy. Make sure they know that you are only asking because you care and you want to make sure that they are happy.
Try to put yourself in their shoes, or think about a time when you were struggling and someone helped you. What was it that you really needed/would’ve really valued at that time? Something as small as offering a hug can help massively.
Think about giving your friend something positive to focus their mind on, so they have motivation to recover. Try to get them engaged in goal setting/bucket list writing. Not only will this help to take their mind off their struggles for a while, it will also aid them in staying on track in the future since they will have something good to work towards.