Knowing the right thing to say to a friend who’s in a dark place can be challenging. We want to help but may be afraid to say the wrong thing.
Whether your friend is suffering from depression, anxiety or abuse, the single most important thing you can do is, make yourself available.
Research confirms that just reaching out is critical.
Here are five ways to help, with no strings attached.
1. Keep checking in.
Reach out via text or phone call, and do it more than once. Make sure your words are nonjudgmental.
Choose what you say wisely especially when texting. Using a ton of smiley face emojis won’t help them feel better. It could actually do the opposite, making the person feel that you’re minimizing what they’re going through.
2. Meet them where they are.
Meet them where they are, as-in don’t pressure them to “get out”, or do anything else they’re not quite ready to do.
Allow them some space to direct the conversation and discover their own coping skills.
3. Remind them of things that make them happy.
Bringing up memories that you think are funny may not be a good idea; be certain that the memory is equally happy for them.
Be patient and kind, hopefully the conversation will help get them back to a somewhat positive head-space.
4. It’s not about you.
Whenever your friend explains what has happened or how they feel, you don’t need to always follow-up with a story of your own.
It may be tempting to share similar experiences in an effort to prove how much you can relate to their pain. But talking too much about yourself can be counter intuitive.
5. Don’t just say you’re available, prove it.
Continue to reach out even if they don’t respond at first.
Never just say, “Let me know if you need anything” or “I’m here if you need me“. You don’t want to make your friend feel that they’re bothering you.
Individuals suffering from depression or having suicidal thoughts are great at hiding their feelings. It’s just easier for them to say, “I’m OK”.
You don’t always have to have an answer, just listening is the most important help you can give.