Mental illness can impact a person’s thinking, feeling, or mood and that may affect his or her ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis. Each person will have different experiences; even people with the same diagnosis will react differently.
1. Leave the diagnosis to the experts:
As a friend don’t try to diagnose or be intrusive, but rather try to create an environment wherein your friend feels a sense of security with you. While we want to be compassionate and jump in and help, we need to know our boundaries.
2. Sharing is caring:
We don’t need to be experts in mental health issues nor can we make people better, but we can be someone a friend feels able to share with without fear of being judged or condemned. Feeling isolated can be a risk factor for developing or triggering symptoms.
Respect a friend’s right to keep their internal struggles quiet. Many of those suffering from mental illness are afraid to admit it for fear of discrimination. They may struggle to find a friendship group where their diagnosis does not define them. They often don’t disclose it until they are comfortable that friends will be supportive.
4. You are not responsible:
As a friend it is important to know that you are not responsible for your friend’s well-being or happiness. No matter how much you want to help them. Each of us is responsible for ourselves and seeking help when we need it. What you can be is a good listener without trying to fix someone. Cars are fixed. People are healed. And that’s where the professionals come in.
If you pray, pray. And if they want you to pray there and then, don’t pray long winded prayers and get your knickers in a twist, but pray for blessing and healing without going into detail but only if they ask you; and don’t assume everyone feels comfortable being prayed for there and then.
None of us know what is really going on for others, so respect their wishes and be mindful that you are there as a friend and not as a solution to all of their problems.