It can be really hard to know what to do or say when you’re trying to help a friend with their mental health.
You don’t want to say the wrong thing and make it worse but you also want them to know you are there for them.
In this article I will share some ideas on how you can best help and support a friend or loved one through their anxiety:
ENCOURAGE THEM TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
First and foremost you should always encourage your friends and family to seek professional help when it comes to their mental health.
It can feel awkward at first to say you think they need to BUT those moments of awkwardness for you could be just want they need to take the biggest and bravest step in moving forward and overcoming or managing their anxiety.
Be polite and encouraging in your approach. Try to make them know its okay to not feel okay and that reaching out for help is not weak.
Some ways they can reach out:
Phone calls to mental health helplines FIND AN AUSTRALIAN LIST HERE
One of the best things you can do is educate yourself on anxiety disorders so you have a clearer understanding of what they are struggling through. There are many types of anxieties and it presents itself in lots of different ways. Get to know what it means to have a anxiety disorder rather than a just an anxious feeling.
HERE IS A GOOD ARTICLE ON ANXIETY AND THE DIFFERENT TYPES.
VALIDATE THEIR ANXIETY
Too often I hear people telling people to “just calm down” or “don’t worry” when it comes to their anxieties.
Telling someone to calm down or not worry makes them feel like their feelings are not valid or warranted and only makes them feel worse about the situation. If they could just calm down trust me, they would.
Instead try rationalising with them if they are in a state of panic and also acknowledge what they are experiencing must be extremely difficult to live with.
Also don’t pretend to “understand” what it is like for them if you don’t suffer yourself, although it’s said with the best intentions when people say “I know what you mean” or “yeah totally get it” when they truly don’t means they are not validating the seriousness or the extent of the anxiety syndrome.
Make it known to them you are alway there to support them, to help them through, offer advice and help them face their fears.
Check in on them – send them a text, call them and make it known to them they are not alone and that you are always there.
Anxiety can feel very isolating and its easy to feel like you have no one around so just by them know how much you want to help them you will make a huge difference.
HELP CHALLENGE THEIR THOUGHTS
Without trivialising their thoughts and fears ask them if there is a different or more common outcome to their thoughts. Most the time our anxiety stems from situations or things that may not or probably won’t ever happen. Give them a more likely outcome., more rational or positive view on the situation they are fearing.
I know my husbands rational voice helps me when I can’t hear my own.
HELP THEM FACE THEIR FEARS
Literally help them through what they are struggling with.
For travel anxiety book a flight away with them hold their hand and help them through. Speak through their fears with your rational voice.
For social anxiety accompany them to a social outing – help them make conversation with you by their side for when they need.
For fear of needles or doctors or anything like that accompany them, hold their hand and reassure them they will be ok.
Anxiety during pregnancy – go with them to their antenatal appointments if they let you and help to retain the positive information. Its easy for people with anxiety to hold on to the negatives or the “possibilities” rather than the positives.
The other thing is once you have supported them to face their fear, celebrate their bravery and success in facing that fear. Take them for a drink or out to lunch etc and also acknowledge to them how proud them you are and how well they did. Don’t underestimate the power of positive reinforcement.
I hope these tips can help you help anyone you know who is suffering through anxiety or mental health illness.
I would love to hear any other tips or ways you approach it with your love ones.
I also think it’s important to take note of how their mental health is impacting yours and if you need to make sure you set boundaries and limits on how much energy you can give and if it starts to make your mental health suffer make sure you look after yourself and seek help also.
And, if its you that is suffering yourself just know you are not alone and there is help out there. The biggest and bravest step you can take is recognising it and reaching out for help.
I believe in you.
Disclaimer: I am not a professional just sharing from my own experience. If you or someone you love is suffering a mental health illness please seek medical/professional help.
Feb 25, 2019