It hurts to see a loved one who is not psychologically well. How to help a friend need then?
Nobody taught you how to help a friend and you don’t know what to do. You celebrate successes with them but you would like to be able to listen to their anxieties, fears, frustrations and problems in general. It really depends on your sensitivity and empathy.
You have noticed that a friend of yours no longer looks like the one you used to know. They seem sad, dull, speak little, they are isolated and blocked in their thoughts. They may be also restless, nervous, hyperactive, anxious, irritable, and have started drinking a lot of alcohol.
You wonder if it was due to the pandemic. Maybe, but they were like that also in the summer, when the Covid situation had improved. They continue to see everything black, they don’t want to go out, see anyone or even talk to anyone.
Moreover, they sleep badly, and are not motivated to go to work.
The first thing that comes naturally to do is trying to reassure them, saying that they don’t need to worry, it will pass quickly, we all have problems and maybe you start telling them about yours, as if this could cheer them up. The result is that your friend is getting worse and worse.
Actually, this diminishing other people’s state of discomfort only contributes to making them feel worse.
Once a psychologist told me that when a person is agitated, you should never tell them to stay calm, because this would have the opposite effect. It is more or less the same thing. If a person is in distress, you should not underestimate their discomfort.
Therefore, how to help a friend in need?
First, you have to listen to them, in an active and empathic way. Listening in this way is not easy, but you can learn. Validate what the friend feels; don’t underestimate their situation and make them understand that they are not alone.
Sometimes, giving advice is not useful. On the other hand, it may be useful to offer practical help, such as shopping for example.
Alternatively, you can propose to go out together, for a drink or to a restaurant, so that your friend can get distracted and maybe they relax and tell you about the difficult time they are going through. A walk in nature or a short hike are also activities that can prove useful. Visiting an art exhibition or a museum can really help raise the moral.
You don’t have to force them to do anything they don’t want to, you have to give your friend space and time, conveying hope that they will feel better later on. You can also tell them to remember some good times from the past that might be comforting. Or, you can tell them to think of other difficult moments they went through and ask themselves how they overcame them.
In addition, you don’t have neither to put pressure on them nor judge them. Only be available.
Obviously, you must not take responsibility for the mental health of the other person. If you are not a psychologist, you cannot know if what the person is going through is temporary or if it is a real mental disorder.
Therefore, if you see that your friend’s health does not improve, you should try to convince them to go to the doctor to explain the situation. Maybe you could even offer to accompany them, because friendship also means helping each other.
What are your strategies for helping a friend to overcome a difficult situation?