It’s so cliché and perhaps ‘cringey’ but friends really are the family you get to choose in life.
While other relationships have always let me down and often completely failed me (whether that’s been a romantic relationship or even some family members), my friends have always been there to pick me up, dust me off and wipe away my tears. If I’m honest, I don’t think I’d have made it through half of my struggles in life without my friends.
Mental health can be hard to talk about with family or professionals but having an understanding friend can make a huge difference.
I think friendships are a vital aspect contributing to our mental health, and I’ve always seen them as a priority. As a teen friendships were especially important to me, they still are now as I don’t believe we ever outgrow the need for platonic companionships but at this time in my life friendships were probably the stable thing in my life.
In secondary school, my life wasn’t easy and my home life felt increasingly chaotic, I needed someone to be there for me, someone I could confide in. I had a lot of good friends around to help me yet when I think of this time in my life, one stands out in particular. My friend Nicole was there for me in ways I can never repay her for. I won’t ever have the right words to say thank you or sorry, but I know I don’t need to have the words because that’s what friendship is.
Nicole lived a street down from me; while my home felt like hell and I hated every second I was there, her family and her home were there for me every day, and it felt unfamiliarly calm. I’m sure a lot of people could see I was struggling despite the fact I was so good at hiding it (I even won the happiest student at my year eleven prom) but Nicole really did care.
I can’t count all the kind selfless things she’s done for me. Furthermore, I think the one that stands out the most is when my Grandad passed away Nicole invited me over, surprised me with all our friends and got me a Chinese. When I need her now she’s still there. She offers me her home, her family, her invaluable friendship and for that, I’ll always love her. I hope she and each of my friends know that I’d always be there for them in the same exact way if they were to need me (I am sometimes a little too blunt, but we all need an honest friend sometimes).
While it’s rewarding and satisfying to help our friends through tough times, it’s also important to remember you cannot jeopardise your own mental health for the sake of another person. So I’d like to provide you with the resources to help a friend in need and what to do if things become too much for you to deal with on your own.
How to help a friend in need:
- Listen to them
- Research their mental health issue (remember you’re not a trained professional)
- Be supportive
- Don’t be dismissive
- Check up on them
- Be kind and patient
- Encourage them to seek professional help
- Encourage them and celebrate accomplishments (even the small ones, like brushing their hair or teeth!)
- Don’t be critical
- Most Importantly! Take care of yourself first and foremost.
I know it can be hard to support someone you love so here is a list of resources provided by mental health charity MIND:
Anxiety UK 03444 775 774 (helpline) 07537 416 905 (text) anxietyuk.org.uk Advice and support for people living with anxiety.
British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) bacp.co.uk Professional body for talking therapy and counselling. Provides information and a list of accredited therapists.
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) 0800 58 58 58 thecalmzone.net Provides listening services, information and support for anyone who needs to talk, including a webchat.
Cruse Bereavement Care 0808 808 1677 cruse.org.uk Information and support after a bereavement.
Depression UK depressionuk.org Depression self-help organisation made up of individuals and local groups.
Do-it do-it.org Lists UK volunteering opportunities.
The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) 0808 801 0331 napac.org.uk A charity supporting adult survivors of any form of childhood abuse. Provides a support line and local support services.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) nice.org.uk Produces guidelines on best practice in healthcare.
NCT 0300 330 0700 nct.org.uk Provides information, support and classes for parents.
NHS UK nhs.uk Information about health problems and treatments, including details of local NHS services in England.
Papyrus HOPELINEUK 0800 068 41 41 07860 039967 (text) firstname.lastname@example.org papyrus-uk.org Confidential support for under-35s at risk of suicide and others who are concerned about them. Open daily from 9 am-midnight.
Samaritans 116 123 (freephone) email@example.com Chris, Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK PO Box 90 90 Stirling FK8 2SA samaritans.org Samaritans are open 24/7 for anyone who needs to talk. You can visit some Samaritans branches in person. Samaritans also have a Welsh Language Line on 0808 164 0123 (7 pm–11 pm every day).
Sane sane.org.uk Offers emotional support and information for anyone affected by mental health problems.
Togetherall togetherall.com Online mental health community (formerly called Big White Wall). Free in some areas through your GP, employer or university.
UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) psychotherapy.org.uk Professional body for the education, training and accreditation of psychotherapists and psychotherapeutic counsellors. Provides an online register of psychotherapists offering different talking treatments privately.