Reach out. It may be difficult for them to find energy and motivation to connect, so you can encourage engagement by sending a message, calling or visiting to see how they are doing.
Listen. The single most supportive thing you can do is listen. Do so without judgement and without giving advice (unless specifically trained). Feeling like you are being properly heard and understood is incredibly therapeutic. It is important to acknowledge that most of us are not naturally good listeners. There are some easy ways to improve active listening skills:
-Focus on the other person, slow down and don’t worry about planning a response;
-Ask specific follow up questions about what they are telling you, this will encourage them to elaborate;
-Pay attention to non-verbal communication, such as gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice.
Encourage helpful activity. You can gently encourage actions that are known to underpin good mental health, such as exercise, getting enough sleep, eating well and doing things they enjoy. Physical exercise is particularly powerful at making us feel better about ourselves, less tired and able to think more clearly. There is also interesting research to show that lots of little, positive events make us happier in the long term than rare, big events, so inviting your friend for a coffee or a walk on a regular basis is likely to improve their well-being.
Organise external support. If necessary, you can research local resources and facilities, find out about appointment availability, help locate medical insurance documents and sort out practical details like parking or transport access.
Look after yourself. Try not to take on a bigger role than you can manage alongside other life commitments. Acknowledge that you may not be able to do as much as you would ideally like in the situation but that your effort is valued and appreciated.
Fernwood Clinic Team
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