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How to comfort a friend

If your friend came to you in a panic, seemingly from an accident with a visibly badly broken leg would you tell them to walk it out because someone out there on Planet Earth was also in an accident and equally as hurt? The logical answer is no because your friend’s situation has no relation to those of the other billions of people around the world. Imagine this scenario but instead of the broken leg,your friend has a mental health problem, such as depression, anxiety or OCD.

Society seems to have an issue with accepting that mental health issues are on the rise and that there are very limited resources to help those who are dealing with the issues. Statistics from the Guardian show that 75% of young people who have mental health issues are not receiving any treatment. This could be because of a number of factors, the NHS is overwhelmed, maybe they don’t have a family that believes in mental health issues, maybe they are scared of seeking help or any multitude of reasons.

As someone who suffers from mental health issues, I’ve experienced an array of reactions when admitting to my issues. A lot of people always give the typical answers of “Someone else has it worse than you”, “Just pray about it”, or “Stop being so negative, you are what you attract”.

To those people, I ask you to kindly please stop opening your mouth to just take up air. Mental health illnesses are as valid as any other illness.

It is unfathomable, even when the Guardian’s statistics show that suicide is the biggest killer in young people in the UK or that people with MH issues dying 10-20 years earlier than the general population, that we still need to have conversations to validate that it’s an epidemic.

How to help

I understand, not everyone may be equipped with knowing how to comfort someone in their distressing time, or maybe you are just bad at comforting people in general. Don’t worry boo, I got you, here are a few tips on how to help a friend/loved one during a crisis.

  1. If it’s a situation that has become harmful or dangerous in any way, please seek the appropriate authority and dial 111 or, if it’s serious, 999.
  2. It’s okay to not have the right answers, sometimes you sitting there and allowing the person to vent, or talk it out is enough. If you don’t know what to say or feel like you’re going to say the wrong thing just try saying something as simple as “I may not understand what you are going through exactly at this moment, but I want you to know I am here for you and I care about you.”
  3. Only give advice when asked for it.
  4. Try to do some research on the issue, there are many great websites like Mind, Time to Change and Student Wellbeing that give tips on how to help or even just educate you.
  5. Be patient, understand that this may take a while. Everyone doesn’t deal with things the same way, so you can’t compare or judge. Each person on this planet has their own obstacles to overcome; no one obstacle is more important than the other because they are all individual.

Lastly, I would like to say to anyone who feels alone and is suffering from mental health issues, you are not alone, you are loved and cared for, you have the right to feel the way you feel and please try to reach out to someone. We have a great Wellbeing Centre at the University with lovely and caring professionals. You can do this, and you will get through it. And if you need immediate help, get in touch with a helpline.

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