Recently, we shared a blog about protecting your mental health, and the steps you can take to preserve your sanity and your health during stressful times of your life (hello, senior year!). We also wanted to share information today about ways you can help encourage a friend going through a hard time, whether that is a mental health crisis or a difficult situation in their life. Part of being a good friend is sticking together in spite of life’s ups and downs, and during some of the worst times as well as the great ones! Here are four practical ways to help a friend in your life who is suffering:
-Listen without offering advice: It can be hard not to interject advice into your friend’s life, especially when you feel you have a good solution. But often what they need is just simple listening and someone who will be there for them. Ask if they’d like advice before offering it, so that it lands on open ears and helps them feel heard. Also remember to set aside time if they need to talk, in a coffee shop or a quiet place where you can listen without distractions.
-Bring them a care package: What things make your friend happy? Do you know their favorite restaurant or coffee shop? If you’re able to, bring them a care package of some of their favorite items or food and leave them on their porch during a difficult time. It can really cheer someone up to know you’re thinking of them. Here are some ideas of things to include: smoothie or coffee, a cute mug, socks, candy, a movie, a magazine or book, hairties, video games, cards, notes, a journal, gift cards, etc.
-Make them a priority: Make yourself available to be a good listener, and let your friends know they are a priority in your life. Make sure that you balance your other commitments, and never allow yourself to become a doormat, but if your friends know you are there for them, they will be more likely to come to you for help. Ways to do this would be: setting aside time each week to see a friend or two, answering texts and calls when you are able, and listening without texting/being distracted when you are together. Check on your friends who are going through a hard time, even if they aren’t reaching out to you. Sometimes, it is too overwhelming when going through difficulty with family, health, or school to reach out to anyone for help.
-Encourage them to get outside help: If a friend is dealing with depression, health problems, or other issues where outside help might be useful, encourage them to reach out to a counselor or other trusted adult. Go with them if appropriate, and if they need support. Remember to keep their issues confidential (unless they involve harming themselves or others and you need to tell someone), and don’t share their personal problems as gossip. Let your friend know there is no shame in getting help!
Being a good friend takes intentional work, and practice. Being there for your friends will make you into a more compassionate person, and the people in your life will know you are someone who can be trusted!