Talking to your pals about anything remotely serious can sometimes be a bit of a tall order, especially when you guys are pretty much living life in your own personal sitcom. But sometimes, when the laughter stops and you guys go off home, some in your friendship group (or even you) might be having a pretty tough time.
That’s why we think it’s pretty important that everyone be able to have a chat with their buddies about mental health – so that everyone has someone to go to. We know it’s awkward though, whether you go to them or they come to you, which is why we put this speedy guide together on how to do it.
If they come to you…
1) Don’t judge
This one might sound obvious, but lots of us can quite easily slip into thinking “what do they have to be depressed about?” or “they’re just being dramatic”, even when it’s a close friend that is coming to us. Try to reprogram these thoughts when someone comes to you by thinking about how hard it must have been for them to come to you and what you can do to help. It might be that you or someone else is going through stuff too, but that doesn’t make what they are dealing with any easier. Remember that this person has confided in you because they trust you and they might just want someone to talk with now.
2) Just listen
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. You don’t have to know everything about everything, and whilst it is super nice that you want to help, telling them to do the wrong thing could make a sticky situation worse.
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.”
3) 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 pretty unhelpful for them. 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.
If you go to them…
1) It doesn’t have to be face to face
Talking face to face is the best way of communicating for some people, for others, it can be literally the worst thing in the world. Instead, try sending a friend a quick message explaining what you are dealing with – you might 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 could even start a group convo with some trusted mates and create a space where you can all talk about your wellbeing in a group chat.
2) 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
3) Give this a read
We know that having the conversation about something big in your past or what’s going on in your life can be really difficult, and being worried about getting it right can be a huge added source of stress. We put together this list of tips on how to open up about your past to someone in your life, and it should give you a bit of guidance on how to do it right.
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 and we will listen.