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We all have friends who are struggling around us and it is natural for us to want to help them. When it comes to helping someone who is having a tough time emotionally, you need to be mindful about how you handle the situation.
In the beginning of my recovery journey, if someone in my life was struggling, I was always making suggestions to help make them feel better. These people weren’t asking for my help so it really wasn’t welcome. What I didn’t realize then was that you cannot force people around you to work on their mental health.
It took me years to realize that you can’t force people to work on themselves. It used to drive me insane that I was putting all this effort into working through my issues while those around me weren’t. I couldn’t understand why others wouldn’t want to help themselves.
The way I worked through it was thinking about how in the beginning I didn’t want help. You know the saying “you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves”? It’s the truth.
For years, I was that person who did not want to help themselves. People had tried to help me, but I was set on being self-destructive. I really didn’t want to help myself. I was set on being miserable.
I don’t think I consciously was trying to be miserable, but the advice people kept trying to give me absolutely wasn’t welcome. I wasn’t ready to make a change and that’s okay. People will make the change when they’re ready.
We’ve all seen and know first hand how horrible it feels to be forced to do something you don’t want to do. Now, whenever I feel the urge to offer people advice about their mental health, I force myself to take a step back and ask “do they really want advice right now?”
The best thing you can do for someone who is going through a tough time with their mental health is to be there as a support system. You don’t have to spew advice at them or tell them what they can do or should do to solve all of their issues. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just listen and validate their feelings.
I know most of the time this is really all I am looking for when I reach out to a friend. I wish people would ask me “do you want advice or do you just need me to listen?” Most of the time when I get unwanted advice without my feelings getting validated, it feels like a lecture. It honestly makes me feel stupid when people try to give me logical advice while I am in an emotional state.
So next time someone comes to you to vent about things going on in their life, as much as you want to help them and give them logical advice, try just being there for them. I think a safe bet is to always ask the person if they want advice or just to vent to a listening ear. They will appreciate you asking, even if they don’t openly say that.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, check out some of our resources.
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