Following the UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week (13th May to 19th May), there have been plenty of campaigns on TV, bus-stops, in newspapers and online reminding people to be aware of those suffering from mental health issues and encouraging us to show support for those in need. This follows a trend of self-care and looking out for our own mental health and why it’s so important. While most of us will always jump to help out a friend, with the sheer amount of struggle felt by most of the population these days, people can quickly find themselves becoming overwhelmed which can inadvertently lead people to shying away from reaching out to help others, or even request help themselves. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can show your support without it overtaking your own mental wellbeing and still ensuring you are a good friend.

Checking In

This tends to be more commonly seen with women, the urge to reach out to close friends, check in and catch up when life gets busy and could be a direct correlation of why mental health issues usually affect men in greater ways. In years gone by, men might only catch up with a mate over a pint in the pub and even then, conversations very rarely centre around their own-being, instead choosing to discuss the most recent football game or how work is going. As someone who has previously worked in both private working men’s clubs and the “local boozer”, this was seen to be true across all age groups and working backgrounds.

When checking in with a friend or even an acquaintance or colleague, it doesn’t have to be a daily or even weekly occurrence but simply reaching out with a simple text or social media direct message to ask someone how their day has gone or if they are alright can help people feel important during a period of low moods. Alternatively, if starting a conversation this way seems completely alien, organising a catch up over a drink or online gaming session can make the world of difference for someone struggling day to day.

Taking a Load Off

Are you good at or enjoy cooking? Do you find joy in doing the laundry? Maybe you’re a clean freak that relaxes by tidying and organising. If this sounds like you and you don’t mind offering your time to help someone in need, you could be the star someone desperately needs, whether they are suffering from mental health stress or a physical affliction. Simply an hour a day with someone who may have had an overwhelming life change, such as a cancer diagnosis who needs to go for regular radiotherapy or proton beam therapy treatments, or a friend that has been signed off of work due to stress or mental health, you could be their encouragement to remain positive and inspire them to get out of bed every day.

Consider if you were in this position, what sort of ways would you like someone to reach out to you and what, within reason, could make your tough time that bit more manageable?

Knowing Your Limits

While helping others, it’s important to know your limits, especially if you have your own growing family or if you are working long hours. There is nothing wrong with having to step back from someone who is going through a tough time and occasionally, you may need to take a break for the good of you both and prevent damaging a good friendship. Someone who is going through a difficult time might be shorter tempered than usual or they may even push back against someone trying to help them. You can’t and shouldn’t ever force your assistance on someone, instead, let them know that you are happy to help out where you can but can’t simply drop everything to attend to their needs unless it’s a true emergency. If there is a deep concern about an individual, consider getting together with a friend group who can all act as a point of contact, to prevent any one person suffering from burnout. Want to learn more about active mental health campaigns and find out more about offering support? Check out Dave’s CALM (Campaign against living miserably) campaign and have a look at the MIND website for more information on looking after your own mental health.