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Topic: I need your help! What can I do to support my friend?

17 posts, 0 answered
  1. MaddyR1
    MaddyR1 avatar
    7 posts
    15 July 2020

    Hi everyone, I would really appreciate it if anyone who's experienced anxiety could take the time to read this and send through some advice.

    One of my closest friends has alluded to her struggles with anxiety, however she has a really hard time opening up about her feelings. On the odd occasion that she has made comments about her challenges, I think I've handled the situation poorly as I've rushed to giving advice/diagnosis (I now know NOT to do this) rather than properly listening.

    She lacks adequate support from her family as they have a hard time understanding mental illnesses, and so she's extremely reluctant to open up and seek help (perhaps due to a fear of judgment?)

    I've never had major issues with anxiety and I don't always know how to act around my friends that do have it, and so I really need advice from people who have been in my friend's situation. Here's some specific questions I have, even if you just answer one or two it would be a tremendous help.

    I know I can't push her into confiding in someone, but what can I do to let her know that I'm always there to talk to?

    If she does open up to me what are some things I should and shouldn't do?

    What were the things you really needed to hear from your friends when you were experiencing mental health issues?

    Should I suggest some resources for her, or does she need to be the one to take action?

    1 person found this helpful
  2. sisu100
    Mentor
    • Masters of Psychology student on placement
    sisu100 avatar
    67 posts
    16 July 2020 in reply to MaddyR1

    Hi MaddyR1,

    I want to commend you for reaching out here and asking for advice to help your friend. I think this speaks volumes about you as a person and I think you’re an amazing friend for doing this.

    Knowing where to start can be tricky, especially when you’re not quite sure what you can do to help. The first step can be as simple as checking in- just letting your friend know that you’re there to help them. It might seem small, but it can make a big difference to the person experiencing difficulties, particularly given that your friend has a lack of support from her family. If you’d like some resources, the Check In app (https://www.beyondblue.org.au/about-us/about-our-work/young-people/the-check-in-app) and this Beyond Blue page (https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/have-the-conversation/talking-to-someone-you-are-worried-about) which can help take you through how to start a conversation with your friend, things you might say and how might you support your friend.

    While I know you want to help her, it’s also important not to pressure her into opening up. I think your friend would really just appreciate you just offering your support and being there for them. Just being a listening ear can help your friend to feel less alone and more supported when coping with their anxiety. If you’re able to, you could continue to check in with her regularly and just doing this can show that you’re there to listen and talk when she needs. When my friends discuss their concerns with me, I try to be as empathetic and understanding as I can, and focus on letting them know they’re not alone. I try to use supportive and non-judgemental language and avoid statements that may dismiss their struggles such as “just try to relax” or “just stop worrying.” Rather, I find it helpful to acknowledge how difficult things might be for them and let them know that you’re there for them.

    It’s okay not to know what to say, I think what matters most is that is you being there for your friend. Perhaps once you get an understanding of what’s going on, you could let her know about some resources that are out there that she can access at any time if she feels like it. Remember it is also important to be taking care of yourself during this time and to seek support if you need as well.

    I'm happy to answer any further questions and help you walk through the process if you'd like. I hope this has been helpful, please let us know how you go.

    2 people found this helpful
  3. leesy_lou
    Mentor
    • Masters of Psychology student on placement
    leesy_lou avatar
    60 posts
    16 July 2020 in reply to MaddyR1

    Hi MaddyR1,
    Warm welcome to the forum, its so kind that you have taken the time to connect with us on behalf of your friend - she is lucky to have you <3

    I connect with this post as I too found myself in a similar situation with a friend experiencing anxiety a couple years ago so can offer you some advice I have through hindsight.
    Firstly, I highly doubt that you have handled the situation poorly, as opening up about a mental health concern is extremely hard and temperamental. It's common for people with anxiety to open up one minute and shut down the next, regardless of the way we react. It has more to do with how they are feeling than how we respond if that makes sense. In my case, I became worried and frustrated with my friend in that she would open up one minute and shut down the next. After she told me she felt horrible about this and me simple asking her was enough but that she just wasent ready to talk or acknowledge the problem. So know it's likely not you handling things poorly. to answer your questions:

    What can I do to let her know I'm there to talk?

    You can keep checking-in. If she is comfortable address it directly ask How's your anxiety today/this morning? If she isn't, try simple check-ins like How are you feeling? Keep that line of communication open for when she is ready. Try not to be disheartened if she doesn't respond, its the opportunities that counts. Pick times when you know she will be comfortable to talk like when you are alone, or walks etc.

    What are some things I should and shouldn't do?
    Each person is different, so when talking to her really listen and mirror the language she uses (some people say stressed or overwhelmed instead of anxiety).

    I would avoid offering advice or "solving" at this point and explore, try:

    - How would you describe it?

    - What are some things that help when you are feeling X?

    - What are things that don't help when you feeling X?

    Whats helpful to hear?

    If you aren't already encourage her to do the things she likes to do for herself ie. self care activities and join in. Even say you want to do them to get her to come alone! Going for walks, cooking, arts and crafts, whatever it is, it's a good opportunity to have fun and destress. It also models appropriate ways of coping and allows more opportunities to talk.

    Less can be more, so listening is a good start. Remind her that this does not define her, that you still see all the wonderful things she is, and that wont change <3

    Keep us updated!

    2 people found this helpful
  4. dadsgripe
    blueVoices member
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    dadsgripe avatar
    16 posts
    17 July 2020 in reply to MaddyR1

    Hi Maddy.

    Lessy and Sisu have given you some great advice there. There’s not much more I can offer. You are the friend that I wish I had when I was first struggling with my anxiety all those years ago. I’ll offer some thoughts from my perspective.

    What can I do to let her know that I'm always there to talk to?

    I get the feeling that you are doing it. Just be there, text messages regularly, even forwarding on a funny meme when you find one can be enough to let them know that you are thinking of them. More for those times when you aren’t in their company.

    If she does open up to me what are some things I should and shouldn't do?

    Just listen, and like the others have said, don’t feel like you have to offer solutions. Offer your friendship and reliability. True friendship is a wonderful thing.


    What were the things you really needed to hear from your friends when you were experiencing mental health issues?

    This is a tough one, for me it was more about feeling love from family and close friends (rather than what was said) and that they were their to help.

    Should I suggest some resources for her, or does she need to be the one to take action?

    General recommendations are fine. Maybe even show them this thread! There are literally MILLIONS of people on earth suffering this, they are not alone, and while it may be hard to believe sometimes, they never need to be alone in this battle.

    I want to add that I am really heartened that you care so much that you want to help. As someone who suffers from anxiety, I am acutely aware of the burden it not only imposes on me, but also those of my family. Your character is shining, through your obvious love for your friend. My faith in humanity is restored for a little longer. :)

    Best wishes.
    B

    1 person found this helpful
  5. MaddyR1
    MaddyR1 avatar
    7 posts
    25 July 2020 in reply to sisu100

    Hi sisu100,

    Thank you so much for your help! I haven't yet found the right time to spark a conversation with the friend this post was about (it's hard finding a suitable time seeing as I don't always get to see her by herself, especially at the moment) but I've applied your advice to another close friend of mine and I felt a lot better about how the conversation went. Even though it was pretty brief, I think I did a better job at communicating my support for her.

    When the time's right and my friend is ready, I'll have a talk with her and remember the advice I've received. I've also downloaded the Check In app and it's been great!

    Thanks again, and I hope you're doing alright during this crazy time.

  6. sisu100
    Mentor
    • Masters of Psychology student on placement
    sisu100 avatar
    67 posts
    29 July 2020 in reply to MaddyR1
    Hi MaddyR1!

    I’m so glad to hear that you found the advice helpful! That’s completely understandable, it can be a bit difficult to find the right time to talk to your friend particularly with the Covid situation right now. It sounds like you've done a wonderful job in using the advice to communicate your support for your other friend. No matter how brief, I’m sure your encouragement meant the world to her.

    Once again, I really do think you are a truly incredible friend. It’s clear that you care deeply about those around you, and your friends are so lucky to have you. Wishing you all the best, and don't hesitate to reach out if you had any other questions or wanted some help looking for resources. Also feel free to let us know how you go after you have the conversation with your friend - I have no doubt you'll be amazing! :)

    1 person found this helpful
  7. Whatsinaname
    Whatsinaname avatar
    93 posts
    29 July 2020 in reply to MaddyR1

    You've already received some amazing advice so I just wanted to share what I'd like to receive in this situation:

    What were the things you really needed to hear from your friends when you were experiencing mental health issues?

    Anxiety, for me, is generally rooted in fear. Fear of the unknown, whether that be dying/losing my job/losing my kids, or even fear/regret of past mistakes.

    I'm notoriously needy when I'm having a panic attack, which I hate to do to the people around me, but nothing calms me down more than knowing my loved one will love me no matter if I was a millionaire CEO or living on the dole unable to work. Just knowing you are loved can be the best feeling in the world.

    1 person found this helpful
  8. SarahZ
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    SarahZ avatar
    115 posts
    29 July 2020 in reply to MaddyR1

    Hellow MaddyR1,

    Firstly I want to say you're a wonderful friend for reaching out and seeking advice on how to best handle this very complex situation. You should be exceptionally proud of yourself!

    It seems you've received some terrific advice, which is great to see! It's wonderful to hear that you recognise the power in just listening and being there for your friend. From personal experience listening is one of, if not the most, key element when handling sensitive situations like these. Often we have to resist the urge to give unsolicited advice and just let them know we are there for them. Even small things like just sending a quick message occasionally just to see how they are going can be a valuable, gentle reminder that you are thinking about them. If your friend does decide to slowly open up it can be beneficial to listen and occasionally ask some questions to show your empathy and interest in finding out more, instead of assuming you understand what they are experiencing.

    Remember to also look after yourself during these times. Wishing you all the best :) x

    1 person found this helpful
  9. Ggrand
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    Ggrand avatar
    7185 posts
    29 July 2020 in reply to MaddyR1

    Hello Maddy...

    You have received some great advice on what to say to your friend...so I won’t repeat anything I hope..

    For me..I just need someone to sit with me..and hold my hand..or put their arm around my shoulder...a bit of human contact makes me feel safe... someone to just listen, and talk to...

    I hope so much that your able to help your friend..Just want to add dear Maddy..that your health both Mental and physical is important as well....So please take good care of you as well...

    You are a great friend to her...

    Talk here anytime..we are listening and here for you..

    Grandy..

    1 person found this helpful
  10. MaddyR1
    MaddyR1 avatar
    7 posts
    12 August 2020 in reply to leesy_lou

    Thanks so much for your help leesy_lou.

    I'm new to Beyond Blue and this was my first post, so I'm really appreciative of all the warm welcomes and advice I've received. I especially found your suggested questions really helpful. At this stage, Covid has made it hard getting in touch with the friend this post was about, however, I was able to apply some of the advice towards another close friend of mine and I think it went well. When the time's right I'll sit down with my other friend, and I'll feel better knowing I've received some really helpful pointers

    Thanks for being so welcoming, and I hope you're doing ok during this tricky time Xx

  11. MaddyR1
    MaddyR1 avatar
    7 posts
    12 August 2020 in reply to dadsgripe

    Hi dadsgripe,

    Thank you for your kind words and advice. It was so good of you to open up on your experiences to help me better understand everything, I'm really appreciative of that. As with all the other great replies I've received, your advice has been really helpful, and I'll be sure to remember it when I'm having these important conversations with people.

    All the best <3

    1 person found this helpful
  12. MaddyR1
    MaddyR1 avatar
    7 posts
    12 August 2020 in reply to Whatsinaname

    Hi Whatsinaname,

    This was such a good answer, and it sounds very much like how I suspect my friend is feeling. Thank you so much for reaching out to me, I really appreciate it.

    All the best <3

  13. MaddyR1
    MaddyR1 avatar
    7 posts
    12 August 2020 in reply to SarahZ

    Thanks for reaching out SarahZ and stressing the importance of listening. I really appreciate all the help and kind words I've received. As with all the other pieces of advice, I'll be sure to remember your words when I'm with my friends.

    Wishing you all the best Xx

  14. MaddyR1
    MaddyR1 avatar
    7 posts
    12 August 2020 in reply to Ggrand

    Hi Ggrand,

    Thank you for your help and warm words, I've been so touched by how open and friendly this space is. I'm making sure to look after myself, and I hope you're taking care as well.

    Sending lots of love and thanks your way <3

  15. RoseQuartz
    RoseQuartz  avatar
    12 posts
    12 August 2020 in reply to MaddyR1

    Hi Maddy,

    I’d like to say that you are such a beautiful friend focusing on providing quality help. A trusting and reliable support network that is available willing to listen on good or bad days is always healthy (for everyone with or without anxiety). Keep that up great work.

    The actual condition experienced by your friend would be best identified and worked on with a professional. We can easily assume the health label like anxiety based on some symptoms but may self misdiagnose and cause frustration and a delay on improving lifestyle. In particular with COVID it places a lot of new stresses which can rapidly become dangerous.

    The Beyond Blue helpline is not intrusive at all so it would not be scary reaching out for conversation. Infact, it is kind of like a key unlocking lots of clarity which removes anxiousness. The outcome will be options and a plan on their own terms.

    Personally, I think the tone, wording and timing of the recommendation are what make or break the success of the suggestion. Because let’s face it we don’t want to feel different/ isolated/rejected. A kind authentic subtle drop in of a service Beyond Blue you’re familiar with that is effective and so commonly used which you think would be great to check out (like you would also use too if you ever felt that way) is empowering (and so normal, like going to the GP for a general check up straight away in auto pilot)! If they feel they are too shy or need they extra support and you are comfortable maybe you can offer be in the same household the time of the call.

    Lastly, I would recommend to your friend journaling. It is so fun, it allows a private safe space to be expressive, uncover things of interest or concern and then share with professionals. My friend got into this not too long ago and they felt better as there were some topics that were boundaries they bottled up.

    All the best :)


  16. Jasjit
    blueVoices member
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    Jasjit avatar
    105 posts
    14 August 2020 in reply to MaddyR1

    Hi MaddyR1,

    Thanks for sharing your story with me. I can assure you that I can completely relate to this story!!! I used to suffer from social and generalized anxiety and phobias throughout my childhood and late adolescence. It was miserable living every moment where no one could understand what I was going through and despite I was quite embarrassed to even share it with anyone.

    So how did I do it? To me, it was the actual food!! The fuel that I was putting in my body was going against me. I had a very bad diet. As soon as I changed my diet going from unhealthy to whole foods plant-based diet with vigorous exercise and practicing yoga and meditation every day, I reversed my anxiety! Now I have literarily no anxiety when meeting or interacting with people in society. This is because after a lifestyle change I started connecting myself - the mind and the body!! And it worked!!! Now I can even speak in front of 100 people!

    Since I have seen a significant change in myself, I would really like to help you out!!! Please keep me updated on your current situation.

  17. David35
    David35 avatar
    20 posts
    19 August 2020 in reply to MaddyR1
    Sometimes just listening, being a sounding board, helping her clarify her thoughts and feelings is priceless. I wouldn't offer solutions and definitely don't invalidate (dismiss) her feelings as worthless. They are what they are. For someone with mental health issues, just having someone in their corner who they can trust is good too. Maybe phrases like "What seems to be on your mind" or "You seem a bit preoccupied" might help. It's such a delicate issue that it really depends on the person.

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