“Do you think your the only person who has problems”
“Listen, everyone is going through shit, stop playing the victim”
“Why don’t you tell us anything ??”
Dear all, as promised all posts from now until the 14th of May will be on or around the topic of mental health, in honour of mental health awareness week here in the U.K. The first post in the series – “Your not crazy” – focused on opening up dialogue about mental health issues and dispelling common myths people have regarding M.I (Mental illness/es), however what happens when these discussions turn from the abstract to the very real? It is estimated that 1 in 6 people within the last week will have experienced a common mental health problem click here for more info, and with statistics like that it’s important that we all make a conscious effort to do more. Today’s post will focus on some of the do’s and don’ts when dealing with a friend who needs your support. This list won’t be exhaustive or foolproof, I’m still learning myself the best way to balance being a good friend and protecting my own mental health. I’ve most definitely had my own troubles along the way, but I’m hoping people can learn from my fuck-ups and prevent themselves from making the same mistakes as I did.
Check up on your peoples regularly. This one may seem easy to do but it’s usually the first step people fumble. We’ve all seemed to have adopted this selfish mindset of only checking for those who check for us, and though I agree to an extent that friendship requires effort on both sides, one of the symptoms that overlaps with many M.I is seclusion. If you start to notice that a close friend isn’t hollering as much as they used to, before you make it all about yourself, think about what could be going on in their lives that could lead to them withdrawing like that. And if your unsure about what could possibly be happening that could explain why you haven’t heard from them in a month then you are well overdue a catch up.
Make your friends feel like they are burdening you with their problems. EVER. This is one that I had to learn the hard way but I quickly found that I’d rather be the friend that is knocking on your door at 3AM to comfort you in the middle of the night, than the friend who is un-blissfully unaware of anything that is going on. Some people find it difficult to open up out of fear of burdening their friends with their issues, but a friend should never make you feel like that. Two (or more) heads are usually better than one, and even if the problems seem unsolvable having someone to carry the load with you definitely takes some of the weight off of your shoulders.
Look out for changes in behaviour. Knowing what kind of friendship you have with a person is imperative if you are to be able to read the signs of when friends need your support. Maybe you have a friend who is usually out-going and bubbly but recently they’ve been refusing to interact and have been unusually quiet . Or you know someone who is usually reserved and timid but who now is on doing anything and everything with no attention to the consequences. Slight changes in behaviour often go unnoticed/overlooked, which is why it’s so important to know your friends. Others are usually able to detect a change in character before the person themselves has had a chance to notice.
Accuse your friend of playing the victim. If someone has ever come to you for friendly advice or maybe they’ve tried to justify certain behaviours with explaining what was happening in their life at the time, and you’ve replied with something along the lines of “everyone has problems”, you need to check yourself. Everyone is different, meaning people are going to react to situations differently, just because you wouldn’t have handled something a particular way is irrelevant, focus on the issues at hand. Your friend has just come to you with a problem, worry about how this is making your friend feel and less about the way they reacted to it. If your that concerned about it – maybe they deal with things in a harmful and/or destructive way – bring that up as an afterthought, handle what needs to be handled first and then mention that they could go about dealing with things in a better manner. That way they’ll be more likely to come to you with problems in the future.
Listen. If we were to believe everyone we’d be under the false impression that everyone is a good listener, when in reality that is far from the case. Remember, if someone has chosen a time to open up to you that the conversation should be centred around them, learn to speak less and you’ll hear more. But don’t get it misconstrued, being a good listener doesn’t mean to just sit there silently, nod and dash in a few “hmm”‘s when you feel it’s time. Listening takes focus, which means if your having a conversation face to face, one of the most disrespectful things you can do is have your attention be elsewhere, so put down your phone, stop fidgeting and look interested!
This part of the post is addressed to those who, like me, have a difficult time opening up. This only works if you allow it to work, its all good and well for me to tell your friends they need to learn how to be good listeners or that they need to be more understanding when you ghost for a few weeks, but if you make it impossible for people to get through to you then it’s all in vain. If your mental health is declining you need people who love you around, now more than ever and pushing people away is only going to hurt you in the long run.
Well I think what I’m trying to say is, we could all do a hell of a lot more people !! I’ve seen too many instances where people have been shocked when worst comes to worst and a friend tries to take their own life. Lost, left feeling bewildered and regretful, is something that I never wish to go through, suicide is a very personal journey that ultimately lies with the person themselves but I would rather live knowing that I tried all things possible as a friend to prevent the worst from occurring. Friendships are all about give and take, lose the selfish attitude and make a conscious effort to be the kind of friend you’d want to have.
Argumentative, Outspoken and unapologetically Jaydee x