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6 ways you can show up for a friend who is struggling mentally
There is a keyword in the title that many people may miss. I’ll give you a few seconds to glance … Done? If not I’m about to spoil it. The word is show. You may not be aware of this but the word show is a verb which in turn is an action. Are you with me?
It is no secret that I feel the largest problem with the mental illness stigma is communication. It is a tight race between that and lack of compassion. Those who struggle may not be able to define what they are experiencing and you may be unsure of what to say. Eliminate that hurdle and move onto the next best thing. Show compassion. Show up without being asked.
I composed 6 ways you can be there as a friend to someone who is struggling mentally.
Orchestrate a day of Creativity
Plan a one on one day of expression in an environment that your friend is comfortable in, outside of their home. My recommendation, your place. Have the scene set-up for painting. This activity will run you about what it costs for dinner for two in a restaurant. Visit your local art and crafts supply store and grab a set of canvasses, some acrylic paint, and a few paint brushes. Turn on some music and paint, just the two of you. Don’t ask questions, just allow the conversation to flow. Make or buy a small meat and cheese tray for a snack. Spend a solid four hours out of your month using this creative idea to connect with your friend who struggles with mental illness. Make it fun. Add your personality to the plan. Switch paintings at the end or add a bottle of wine to the mix. The objective is to allow them to express themselves freely through art. Make the time about expression.
Take them to an appointment
Ask them when their next appointment is. Take them. Trips to the psychiatrists generally take 45 minutes, give or take. Entertain yourself on your phone while you wait in the waiting room. Grab lunch either before or after the appointment. Choose a quiet, intimate atmosphere where you two can discuss life. Don’t make the conversation heavy. Keep it light. Laugh. Reminisce. Eat dessert.
Convey your support with time spent.
Slow down and appreciate each others company. Don’t ask them what they want to do. Have a plan so no decisions have to be made on their behalf. Bring an old, classic movie from your teenage years, mine would be Sixteen Candles and be present. Pack a picnic basket and bring a blanket. Use that cute picnic basket you bought off of Amazon. Have a living room floor lunch. Don’t forget the popcorn. Remember those cute little popcorn boxes you have left over from your son’s birthday party? Put thought into the time you have together.
Be personable, not self-absorbed
Maintain eye contact. Don’t waste your time by having a bitch session and really … don’t gloat. We are happy for your success and we see it but sometimes we don’t care. It isn’t personal because you can’t give what you don’t have. We don’t want to talk about our situation either. Chose a topic that you share as a similar interest and expand on that.
You both love cats so you can buy matching cat socks, grab some stationery with a cat design. They have really cute headbands with cat ears, throw those together with a personalized card. Write a message of gratitude for the bond you share. What about a journal that is monogrammed with her initials? The possibilities are endless. Personalize and confirm you are friends for a reason.
Have a slumber party
Maybe you travel often for work or with your family. Remember signing up for hotel rewards? Use your rewards for a night in a local hotel room. Have a drink at the lobby bar or order room service. Surprise her with a comfy set of night clothes. That will be her favorite and I am almost positive she will put them to use. Make sure to know if she is hot or cold natured and purchase accordingly. It would be terrible for me to receive a wool set of pj’s because I am hot natured. These are the small details that matter. Get matching sets, hell this is a slumber party after all.
Each of these suggestions has a common theme. You are going to them. You aren’t asking or offering. You are doing. When you walk into their home scope out the scene. Are they usually really tidy? Well, take note of what it looks like when you surprise them. Struggling with mental illness is exhausting physically and the last thing you want to do is clean. Don’t be judgemental. If your budget allows hire a maid for the day and send them to her house with a card from you with a simple statement,
“ I hope you enjoy relaxing today. Lisa has been sent to give you a day off. She will be there from 1-3. Enjoy, I love you”
Again you are doing without permission. Whilst in darkness we never accept things because it feels like a hand out. But if you have made the arrangements and implemented them, it’s almost impossible to decline.
Is your friend someone who has always kept up to date with the latest hair trends? Last time you saw her you may have noticed her roots which is uncommon. Send her a gift card to the hair salon she likes for a color service. With the gift card, an appointment card should be included giving her the date and time of when to show up, hassle-free. A spruce up on your appearance makes anyone feel better.
We all have hectic lives and it isn’t often we make time for friends. Spend a day planning and preparing for a day with a friend who is struggling mentally. Do this every so often for any of your friends. You’ll be happy you did.
What is the last kind act you did for a friend? Would you try any of the above ideas?