You don’t need to be a doctor or a trained counsellor to support a friend. Do your best to look for the signs, and if you’re able, try these helpful tips.
You may notice a friend changes the way they act or look. Maybe they’re not hanging out with you anymore. Maybe they’re tired all the time and nothing seems to interest them or they’re really grumpy.
Other times they might be cramming as much mahi into their day as they can. They might be putting too much energy into one thing, which means they might forget to look after themselves in the process.
If you see any of those changes, don’t be shy about asking if they’re ok.
Listen to them. Relax, you’re not expected to come up with an instant solution. Just really listen to what they have to say. Even if you don’t understand what they’re going through, accept that it’s very real to them. Let them know you’re happy to listen; that alone is a huge help.
Offer support, but don’t take over the kōrero. It’s great to try understand what your friend is going through, but it’s important to also understand their experience is their own. Try to do your best not to take over their experiences with your own story. Everyone is different.
Have a wānanga together. Don’t stress about saying the wrong thing, be guided by your gut.
To make things easier, here are a few tips:
- Pick a safe place that’s quiet and private
- Give yourselves plenty of time
- Listen more than talk
- Save your advice for later, or when asked
- Put aside your own thoughts and opinions. You don’t have to agree with someone to help them out
- Show you’re listening. Don’t go checking your DMs, try and focus.
- Try to ask open-ended questions like; “How you are feeling” or “What makes you think that?”
- You could also try the Check-in-app to help you plan how to approach a friend in need while also helping you look after your own mental health.
Get help together. And if your friend needs help to actually do something about how they’re feeling, gently encourage them to act. Suggest they talk to their whānau, iwi, doctor or helpline. You could help by finding someone or offering to go along with them. And if the first person doesn’t work out, help them try another. It’s important that we look after each other. Healing begins with the community. Also you’ll find heaps of tips on this site to make it a little easier for them to get through their depression or anxiety and for you to better understand where they’re at.