Most people experiencing a problem with their mental health will speak to a friend or family member before they speak to a health professional. You're also the person most likely to notice a change in how they are. They may be more irritable, appear flat or withdrawn. Trust your gut. Ask how they are. Your support will be invaluable.
If someone lets you know that they are experiencing difficult thoughts and feelings, it's common to feel like you don’t know what to do or say – but you don't need any special training to show someone you care about them, and often just listening can be the most valuable help you offer.
Simply giving someone space to talk and listening to how they’re feeling, without judgement or necessarily trying to offer any solutions, can be really helpful in itself. If they're finding it difficult to open up, let them know that you're there when they are ready.
Seeking help can feel lonely, and sometimes scary. You can reassure someone by letting them know that they are not alone, and that you will be there to help.
Even though it might be upsetting to hear that someone you care about is distressed, try to stay calm. This will help your friend or family member feel calmer too, and show them that they can talk to you openly with you.
You might want to know more details about their thoughts and feelings, or want them to get help immediately. But it’s important to let them set the pace for seeking support themselves.
Try not to make assumptions
. Your perspective might be useful to your friend or family member, but try not to assume that you already know what may have caused their feelings, or what will help.
Keep things normal.
Part of the emotional support you offer could be to keep things as normal as possible. This could include involving your friend or family member in social events or chatting about other parts of your lives.
Look after yourself:
It can be hard work supporting someone else, especially if you find yourself in a position where the person has confided in you but isn’t ready or willing to access professional support. Or if they're behaving in ways that make them hard to be around. It's important people do things at the pace that is right for them but also for you to be realistic about how much support you can provide.
Remember that small, simple things can help, and that just being there for them is probably helping lots. Please make sure you take time to recharge your own batteries and if you need advice on how you can help your friend or family member, make use of the services on the Find Help
pages to get advice and support. You may find our pages I'm worried about someone else