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How To Be a Friend To Those With Mental Illness

     We hear it all across the news. It can be commonly found in a room filled with people. Most times it is ignored. It’s the elephant in the room that needs to be addressed. Mental health. In advance, this article may trigger those who suffer with mental health issues.

Oh, yes, you have heard of it. The first time it was presented to you was in middle school health class. More than likely you believed only crazy people suffered from it or maybe you thought what you feel or how you act finally makes sense, or maybe your eyes closed and you took a nice nap in sixth period. Either way, it was talked about once and then ignored until you got older and started to notice most people surrounding you have some form of mental illness.

However, is it still not a hush hush topic? People tend to take notice once a serious incident occurs. This is the very reason to check up on your friends. People often do not realize that there are many people who suffer from mental illness. One of the very first things you should do for a loved one with mental health illness, is make sure they know they are cared for and their feelings are valid. Many times, insecurity arises with those with mental health illnesses as they have often been critiqued for their feelings and actions. It takes tons of courage for them to tell people in their life. Just being there as a friend is enough for certain people.

There are many myths about mental health, which the media portrays. You have to be sure that what you are hearing and what you read is from a reliable source. Educating yourself about mental health diagnoses may help you understand your loved one better. This will allow you to listen to what your loved one is saying, or not saying. A few great sources for education about mental health are mentalhealth.gov and nami.org (National Alliance on Mental Health).

      Listening plays a large part for being there for your friend. You may or may not understand what they are going through, and as a response, the best thing to do is let them vent to you. Unless they ask questions, don’t respond with rehearsed answers, as not everything you have been through can compare exactly to what they’re going through.

There will be times when you will not know how to handle your friends’ issues when they seek for your help. That is okay. You are encouraged to ask other professionals to help you help them. Your friends’ personal issues should stay confidential but you are able to ask others how to handle situations that are foreign to you. Not only will your friend need outside help but you need to care for your own mental health. For some, knowing that your friend is suffering becomes strenuous.

Lastly, if you feel truly concerned for your friends wellbeing, there are many sources that are able to help your friend further. You can call a crisis line at 1-800- 273-TALK. At Eastern, we have the Cushing Center for Counseling and Academic Support (CCAS). For questions or appointments, call 610-341-5837, or email them at ccas@eastern.edu. Remember that you are not alone in your struggles.

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