Everyone needs friends – and no more so if someone is suffering from a mental health condition. Having a mental health condition can be very isolating for the person with the condition, and also difficult for those close to them.
Telling close friends about a mental health condition however is an important, sometimes difficult step towards recovery and managing the condition. For some, the fear of rejection or stigmatisation can prevent them from sharing their diagnosis with close friends and family and they may choose to keep it to themselves. No one is obliged to tell anyone – even their closest friend – that they have a mental health condition, but it could really aid their recovery if those close to them do know and can offer support and help.
Once someone knows that their friend has a mental health condition, it can explain changes they may have seen already in their friend’s behaviour and in their relationship. Not wanting to go out, not staying in contact or not wishing to talk are suddenly not the signs of the end of a friendship but the signs of a mental health condition, such as depression and anxiety. And the signal that their friend needs their help and support more than ever.
For the person suffering from a mental health condition, just knowing that they have someone who accepts them for how they are and who supports them no matter what, can make all the difference.
Listening, talking about normal things, staying in regular contact, laughter – and above all, just being there for them are worth their weight in gold in helping a friend realise that they are not alone and that things will get better.
At the same time, realising that a friend is struggling and knowing how best to help can be hard – and stressful. As a good friend, it is also important to look after your own mental health and to get the balance right between helping and becoming too emotionally drained or burnt out. Knowing the limits of what you can do to help personally is key – and when to bring in the help of a mental health professional.
Regardless, the support of a friend through thick and thin can be a life affirming process and strengthen a relationship. All friendships have their ups and downs – a mental health condition can and should be the making and not the breaking of a true friendship.
At Private Psychiatry, we diagnose and treat a variety of mental health conditions. To make an appointment with one of our consultant psychiatrists, please get in touch.