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Supporting a friend's mental health

Photo: Finding out that your friend or partner has a mental health condition can be tough, but there are ways you can help them.

It’s hard to know what someone else is really thinking. A person might seem happy and confident on the outside, but feel very different on the inside.

Finding out that your friend has a mental illness can be tough. You might feel scared, awkward, or helpless. All of these things are totally natural. It’s important to remember that your friend is still the same person they were before, they just might think, feel or act a bit differently. Here are a few ways you might be able to help.

Give them time to talk

Sometimes, simply telling someone else how we feel can make us feel a lot better. Try to find a quiet space where you can give your friend your full attention. You don’t have to pretend that you know how your friend is feeling, or know how to make them better. Just showing them that you care is enough.

Ask how you can help

Mental illness can make us feel hopeless. Asking how you can help encourages your friend to think about solutions to their problems.

Make them feel included

People with mental illness often withdraw from their normal activities. You might notice your friend cancels plans or doesn’t want to go out as much. This can be frustrating, especially if you had something fun planned! Try to remember that your friend is ill and needs you to be patient. Make sure you keep inviting them to things and ask how you can make the activity easier for them if they’d like to come.

Encourage them to get professional help

If your friend is really down, they probably need to speak to a professional. Encourage them to speak to a doctor or counsellor. If they’re nervous, perhaps you could help them plan what to say, or offer to go with them to see the GP.

Look after yourself

Supporting friends with their mental health can have an impact on our own mental health, too. As much as you care about your friend, it’s not your job to keep them safe. You shouldn’t feel guilty if things are going well for you. Don’t forget to look after yourself, too.