The last time you spoke with a friend, how did they respond? How did they react to your usual fun conversation? Did you think anything was off about them?
Well, you may have noticed something about your friend’s behavior that makes you concerned for their well-being. Whether it is their health, emotions or academic issues; their extravagance, or their increased drinking. It can be really difficult to know when to step in and how to help in such situations.
The primary aim of this article is to suggest ways you can help, without becoming their doctor or parent. You are their friend, and if you be just that in some situations, you will be greatly appreciated. Somehow, if they want a diagnosis, a decision-maker or a financial adviser, starting out as a friend can help you point them in that direction.
What to look out for.
Some friends find it difficult to express themselves when they are in a really bad place. They believe no one can understand their plight and they assume they cannot be helped. Because they think their problems are larger than life, they keep to themselves and struggle alone. No one wins by fighting alone. We all need other people at different times.
So if you are worried that a friend is sinking, look out for the following signs early enough:
- Intentional self-harm
- Reluctance to hang out as usual
- Unnecessary anxiety
- Excessive eating
- Increased drinking
- Talks of feeling hopeless
- More alcohol intake
- Less interest in work or school
How to help.
Whenever you see any of the signs listed above, just know it is time to be your friend’s minister. Act immediately, but before you do that, please have a plan in place for what you want to say. You don’t want to say the wrong things and worsen the situation for him or her.
Go to them when they are alone. People who are unhappy about some things tend to appreciate confidentiality and privacy more than the average person.
Let them know that you are worried about their wellbeing. If possible, give them reasons for your concern.
Listen to what your friend has to say. One way to be supportive is to listen in a non-judgmental way, and only ask questions when you are not clear.
Lastly, ask if they need help with anything, like house cleaning, childcare, shopping or studying. Then offer to help.
To begin the process of helping, you need to confirm your suspicions. This is important because one wrong assumption is capable of destroying the good intentions you have. To do this, have a conversation with your friend. Below are good conversation starters.
“You have not been yourself lately. Is everything okay?”
“I’m worried about you. I’m here to talk if you need me.”
Things to avoid.
Focus on your friend’s need. And to do this, don’t make it about you.
Avoid being judgmental with your statements.
Where he or she is not forthcoming with their expression, don’t push it. Don’t go forcing your care on the person.
Avoid directing anger at the person. Be sure your anger is directed at the person’s behavior.
What if my friend is refusing help?
Your friend may decide not to change their behavior or accept the help you are offering even after talking to them. It is important to remember that it is not in your place to force a solution. Unless your friend is in danger of hurting themselves or anyone else, seeking help is their decision.
Just continue to be supportive by listening and offering to help. When your friend decides to seek help later, they will know you are there for them.
When you are worried about a close friend, you may find yourself having difficulty concentrating at your work, on study or on your family. That should never be allowed to happen.
You have to be strong for your friend. When the two of you are down, the battle is lost. Stay sane by making time to do something you enjoy.
Please remember that, ultimately, it is your friend’s decision to change a behavior or seek help. Don’t beat yourself up if nothing changes.