What are you supposed to say when someone tells you that they’re not OK?
Do you dread the awkward silences, the raised eyebrows, the uncomfortable advice giving? Some people aren’t natural advice givers and that’s fine, but here are some tips on having that conversation with your friends and how to get the most out of it.
Understand Mental Health
Statistically speaking, you or one of your friends is living with a mental health issue right now. The best thing you can do is understand that everybody has mental health and having a mental illness does not make you weak or any less of a person. Seeking help for a mental health issue is a sign of strength and courage.
Someone else’s mental state is not for you to judge. You might think “what do they have to be depressed about?” or “they’re just being dramatic” but remember that this person has confided in you because they trust you and they might just want someone to talk know.
If your mate approaches you with something they want to talk about and you’re not sure what to say, just lend an ear and listen. Ask them questions rather than give them advice you’re unsure about. If you really want to help, you could suggest that you both do some research about the next steps to take or find someone who can help. Alternatively, you could just be honest and say “I’m not sure how to help, but I’ll always be here to listen.”
Don’t make it all about you
Sometimes you can use your own personal experience to help someone else and that’s fine. But if you’re just changing the subject to talk about yourself when a friend is trying to talk, this is unhelpful. If you can genuinely relate to what they’re going through then there’s no harm in telling them that, but always be mindful of the fact that they chose to confide in you.
It doesn’t have to be face to face
Talking face to face is the very best way of communicating for some people, for others, it can be a bit painful. Instead, try messaging them on WhatsApp or over text. Many people find it much easier to talk about their feelings over text or by writing it down because it gives you more time to think about what you’re going to say. You can type it out a couple of times until it looks right, you can add the occasional emoji to really seal the deal 😬. You could even start a group convo with some trusted mates and create a space where you can all talk about your wellbeing in a safe space.
Keep it casual
If you’re worried about a mate or want to talk a friend about your own mental health, you can do it in a casual way to avoid things getting too intense. You could bring it up when you’re playing a game or doing something else so that it’s not the main topic of conversation. This kind of conversation is great because it normalises talking about mental health. The more we talk about it, the less stigmatised it becomes! Here are some things you could do together whilst talking:
Go for a walk
Play a video game
Do something creative like drawing or painting
Do each other’s hair/makeup
Go to the gym
Always take them seriously
If they ever say that they’re feeling suicidal, or words to that effect, it’s really, really important that you take them seriously. You can help them by:
Notifying a trusted adult ASAP (parent, older sibling, teacher, family member)
Encouraging them to speak to someone at The Samaritans. You can speak to someone over email, on the phone, in person, or even by post 🐌 – find out more here or call 116 123. If they don’t want to speak to anyone, you could call on their behalf
Look out for each other
The best thing to do is just look out for each other everyday. Know the signs. If your friend is acting a bit off, it can be as simple as just asking them ‘are you ok?’.
If you or your friends are struggling and need someone to talk to, head over to the Ditch the Label community to get advice from a digital mentor: