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This Graphic Is a Great Cheat Sheet on How to Support a Friend's Mental Health

The Mighty logo The Mighty 2/26/2021 Heidi Lynn Borst
text: Graphic: How to respond when someone talks to you about their mental health © The Mighty Graphic: How to respond when someone talks to you about their mental health

Even if you’ve never experienced anxiety, depression or any other mental health challenge, every single one of us has dealt with hard times in life. If a friend or loved one opens up to you, and you’re not sure what to say, it can all too be fall back on statements like, “You have to be more positive,” “Don’t worry so much about it,” or “Look on the bright side.” But as good as your intentions may be, these “feel-good” statements dismiss a person’s feelings. Ultimately, denying a person’s emotions may only make them feel more isolated and alone.

Stuffing our feelings is almost never a good idea. Suppressed emotions have profound consequences on both our physical and emotional health. Studies suggest the relationship between emotional and physical health is reciprocal; emotional dysregulation (aka bottling up your emotions) can suppress our immunity, decrease our pain tolerance, increase our stress levels and worsen depressive symptoms. Simply put, suppressed emotions are toxic.

Being able to freely express our feelings — especially with each other — is vital to our overall wellbeing. If a friend reaches out to you for help, chances are they mostly want to be seen and heard, to feel understood.

If they’re going through a period of depression but you’ve never experienced depression yourself, come from a place of empathy, being observant, accepting and non-judgmental of what they’re going through. Good-vibes only advice isn’t usually what they’re after — if dealing with difficult feelings was as easy as a shift in perspective, no one would ever struggle.

For concrete ideas on what to say when someone talks to you about their mental health, refer to this graphic by BelievePerform (@BelievePHQ), a London-based site promoting mental health and wellness. It’s chock full of helpful statements you can use.

First, listen to what they have to say. Instead of urging happiness and positivity, thank your friend for confiding in you and ask what you can do to help, letting them know you’re there for them and proud of them for opening up. If you’re unsure, don’t worry. The simplest statements can go a long way.

As humans, we need to be accepting of the difficult feelings we have along with the pleasant ones, allowing ourselves the time and space to process whatever comes up. If you’re going through a rough time, reach out to a friend who allows you to experience your whole truth, not just the rainbows and butterflies.

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