I got a message the other day, from somebody asking how they could help or support somebod who was struggling when nobody else really knew. The whole thing stumped me a little bit. I usually take any oppportunity to offer advice, as I have a whole load of little bits and pieces of experience and past advice stored in my head. However, I had to think over it, because it’s a scenario I’ve never been in myself. After talking to a few people, I feel like I’ve finally reached a good, and well thought out answer.
If nobody else knows, then you should probably tell somebody. No matter the extremity of what is happening with your friend, support is necessary, and there is no way you can handle it by yourself. A really obvious worry you may have is that your friend may not have any idea that you know. In these kind of cases, you might doubt yourself. Am I overreacting? Will they be upset if I get them support? You might find it best to speak to them first. It might be great support for them to know that someody is aware they are struggling, without the entire pressure of having to explain it themselves. Just knowing there is somebody who they can speak to regarding any worries can be a huge help.
Understand that you are not going to be able to cure this friend. The best thing to do, is to be there to support them. They’re probably not looking at you as a therapist, but a friend. So try not to obsess over their recovery. It will take time. Just be sure to check in with them over how things are going.
Like I said, you’re not a therapist. Just because they are struggling, doesn’t mean they are any different. They are still your friend, so be sure to allow time to do the typical friend stuff that you enjoy. It can provide a great use of distracting for them, as it’s pretty exhausting to discuss how you’re feeling every minute of every day.
Try and understand. It can be difficult when you’ve never experienced it, but it is so necessary. Research if you want to, or just ask them to try and explain. Often people can be worried to ask about those sort of things, for fear of upsetting or triggering. But in most cases, people are pretty up for talking. It’s a good release for them, and can be helpful for both individuals to discuss what is happening.
Trust your instincts. If you think they’re in danger, call somebody immediately. Wether thats parents, a helplin, or even emergency services. And never worry about worry about upsetting them – they may struggle with you telling people in the moment, but they will know that you are just trying to help.
All the best.