When a friend or family member is going through a difficult time, it can be hard to know what to do or how to help. You might not understand what they are going through or how you can even help or support them. We’ve put together a few things that you can do to support them.
How to help a friend with anxiety
Watch for signs
Look out for the signs that they may be going through a difficult time or their anxiety may have got worse. They might be avoiding spending time with friends or family, or are constantly tired or more anxious than usual. Pay attention to the signs that they might not be alright and check in with them to see if they’re ok.
Listen to them
Try to be a good listener and encourage your friend to talk to you or to someone that they feel they can trust. Listen to what they have to say, and don’t rush to give them advice before they have had a chance to speak. Let them know that you are worried and that you are there for them when they want to talk to you. Respond to them by trying to listen in a non-judgmental way, which involves being open and understanding of what they have to say. Let them know that what they are going through is normal and that loads of people have had similar experiences.
Learn more about listening skills here.
Talk to them
It can be hard to know what to say to your friend. You might be afraid of upsetting them or saying the wrong thing. But don’t be afraid of simply asking them how they are. Ask them ‘how can I help?’, as it is often all that is needed to start the conversation. Don’t be afraid of a little silence as it will often help someone to open up to you. Try to avoid giving them the brush off and instead show empathy for how they are feeling. Read more on talking about mental health here.
Reach out for help
Encourage your friend to seek out help to help them through this difficult time. This may be from other friends or family members or may include a mental health professional such as a GP or counsellor. You can find more information about free or low-cost counselling at spunout.ie/help
Learn more about their anxiety and ask them for ways that you can help them. This could be something as simple as sending them a supportive text message when they really need it.
Try to avoid clichés or using phrases such as ‘Cheer up’ or ‘it will pass’ or ‘pull yourself together’. They aren’t helpful and will most likely end up making your friend feel worse about themselves.
Ask how you can help
Don’t be afraid to ask your friend how they are and how you can help them. For example, they may have anxiety about being in busy places and knowing that you are there with them can help prevent them from becoming too anxious.
Talk about other interests
You don’t always have to talk about their mental health with them. Although the person may be going through a difficult time now, they still have interests outside of their mental health and their mental health does not define them. Chat about everyday things or find out what they’re interested in, and talk about that.
Meet them where they’re at. Not everyone is comfortable talking about their mental health at first, so be patient as it may take a while before your friend or family member trusts you enough to talk about how they are feeling.
The most important thing is to let them know that you are there for them no matter what.
For more information read our article on talking about mental health, you can also read more about things to avoid saying to someone who has a mental health difficulty.