How to Help Your Mates When They Don’t Want to Talk About Their Mental Health

Trigger warning: This article contains references to self-harm.

Everyone has had a rubbish mental health day. Yup, for better and worse, it’s not just you who has had them. Sometimes, your mates are going to be down in the dumps and struggling.

However, you might be concerned for a friend of yours if their rubbish mental health day has turned into rubbish weeks or rubbish months. So, if this happens to a mate, should you say something? And what should you say? And how do you know that you’re not just overreacting and misinterpreting some signals?

Well, if you’ve ever asked yourself any of these questions, then you’re in the right zone. Because The Latch asked Mary Spillane, Clinical Psychologist and Headspace App’s Mental Health Expert, a whack of questions about this subject. More importantly, the answers we got back were rad and incredibly helpful.

What Are Some Signs That a Mate’s Struggling?

It can sometimes feel like it’s tricky to work out whether or not a pal of yours is having a rough one. However, if you’re in this situation, then there are a bunch of signs that can illuminate how they’re actually going.

“A key sign to look out for are changes in their behaviour or mood that seem out of character,” stated Spillane. “These changes could look like social withdrawal or isolation, agitation, more substance use, weight gain or weight loss, fatigue, or they might even talk about not feeling themselves recently.”

So, if one of your pals is exhibiting such changes, you should definitely be a mint person and chat with them.

What Should You Say If You’re Worried?

It’s one thing knowing that you should talk to a friend about their mental health, and it’s another thing entirely actually doing it. So, what should you legit say?

“Be direct. Tell them that you have noticed they don’t seem themselves and that you’re worried about them,” said Spillane. “Often people are afraid that expressing concern or worry for a mate will make them feel worse. However, the opposite is often true and it’s important to be clear and direct.”

If you’re still a bit lost for words, I usually say something like: “Hey, my dude. There’s something I’ve been wanting to chat with you about for a hot minute, cause we’re really good friends and I love you. Recently, you haven’t seemed 100% yourself and I’ve been concerned for your mental health.” This is followed by listing some of the ways that they seem off and then asking them how they’re feeling.

Now, I’m not stating that these words are everyone’s cup of tea, but they work in my friendship circles. Feel free to steal them or tailor them to any situation that you deem fit. 

What Should You Do When a Mate Refuses to Get Help?

A buddy of yours might be struggling, you might talk with them, and they might refuse to get some help. This can happen, this does happen. It doesn’t mean that you’ve failed, nor does it mean that either of you is a terrible friend.

“Ultimately, it is very difficult to force someone into getting help if they’re not ready,” expressed Spillane. “Let your friend know that you are available to talk and support [them] if ever they need, and check back in with them at a later date.”

At What Point Should You Hold an Intervention?

Now, having an intervention for a friend might feel melodramatic or like a Hollywood cliché, but they can be useful in certain situations. That being said, one shouldn’t be held in a loose manner.

As Spillane outlined, “Interventions should be run and facilitated by trained professionals, so it’s important to speak to a mental health professional before going down this path.”

Spillane also noted, “If you’re concerned that a mate might be thinking about or planning to harm themselves, it’s very appropriate and important to call 000 immediately.”

What Resources Can You Recommend to a Mate?

If your pal is open to getting help, that’s brilliant. Because there’s a lot of different resources out there that can help them with their mental health.

“Speaking to their GP is a really good first step. The GP can then make appropriate referrals if required,” said Spillane. “Other great resources to share include MensLine and Lifeline, who offer free and confidential counselling and support.”

Remember: Take Care of Yourself Too

Whether or not a friend of yours gets mental health help, it might sometimes feel like it’s difficult to support them.

As Beyond Blue declared, “It’s important for people who are supporting someone with anxiety and/or depression to look after themselves… They need to stay strong and reliable, not only for the person they’re supporting, but also for themselves. However, the constant, sometimes overwhelming, nature of being a support person can put a person at greater risk of developing a mental health condition themselves.”

That’s why it’s important that you also take tabs on your own mental health. If you’re acting out of character, feel like you’re struggling, or worried about your wellbeing, then there’s no shame in chatting with your GP. Beyond Blue additionally recommended that you go for a leisurely walk, do some exercise, or get a massage.

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. 

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