You've got a friend in me: supporting yourself and others

Tips on reaching out to friends and starting difficult conversations

Sometimes you may be concerned about a friend’s mental wellbeing and want to check in with them but feel out of your depth and unsure of how to start the conversation. As a society, we don’t talk openly about our mental health enough, so it's very normal to feel this way! We have listed some tips that will help you to create a safe space with your friends and aid you in starting those tricky conversations. Active Listening: Try to be an active listener. This means maintaining open body language and eye contact (if that is comfortable for them), making encouraging noises as they speak, asking effective questions, and reflecting on what they have said, rather than creating assumptions. This will show you are open to hearing what they have to say and are engaged in the conversation. The power of asking ‘how are you feeling?’ Often people want to talk about how they’re feeling but wait until someone asks how they are. Try asking open questions – this lets the person control the conversation and they are likely to share more with you. ‘How are you getting on?’, ‘How are you feeling?’ Revealing your innermost emotions - anger, sadness, fear, hope, jealously, despair and so on – can be a huge relief. Don’t try to solve their problems: If someone tells you they are feeling miserable or down, don’t try to solve their problem or give them advice. Focus on how they feel as this is more helpful and shows you care. ‘That must be very hard for you, I’m sorry to hear that’, ‘That must be tough’. What? How? Where? But not Why? What? How? Where? Questions are great, but be careful with Why? As this can make people feel defensive. Instead, you can rephrase with ‘how so?’ or ‘In what ways?’

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