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Mental health: Tips for mates

What can you do if a friend is suffering? Our survivor has some suggestions. This advice was originally devised with young people in mind but is relevant for any age.

A friendly hug

  • Listen - The best thing that anyone can do for someone suffering with mental health problems is to listen. You may not understand what your friend is going through or feeling, but just to know that someone tries to understand makes the world of difference.
  • Talk - If you have never experienced such problems yourself, just be as supportive and understanding as you can. Each case of mental health is different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution or programme to ease the problem. Social contact is a key element to recovery and progress from mental health problems. Try to persuade your friend to get out of the house, even if it's only for a walk in the park. It's very easy for anyone with mental health problems to shut themselves away and avoid normal life.
  • Support - Even if you can't see your friend every day, a quick call or even a text message reassures your friend that someone out there cares. Mental health problems are incredibly isolating and when you feel that you are all alone, any contact with a support network is crucial.
  • Research - Try to find out about the illness to enable you to understand it. Family and friends who live with someone suffering need to have a grasp on the problem - and, because any condition like this can affect the lives of those around the ill person, they need support too. There are lots of books and websites you can look at.
  • Danger signs - If you think your friend is getting worse, has suicidal thoughts, is becoming more insular and reclusive, be aware. Also watch their eating and drinking habits - alcohol and medication don't mix well.
  • Patience - If your friend is on strong medication, be aware that they might suffer from side effects such as sweating, nightmares, hand tremors, drowsiness, weight loss/gain, tiredness, headaches, stiff muscles, clumsiness, confusion, - and that's just for starters! If they do suffer, be supportive.


This resource is part of the 'Wellbeing and Mental Health Collection' created by the Open University in Wales. You can learn more and find courses, articles and other activities on the collection's homepage.




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