When someone we love is struggling with a mental illness, it can make us feel completely helpless. We might have a vague idea that we shouldn’t tell them to ‘pull themselves together’, but we aren’t always sure what we should say. With that in mind, I decided to put together a number of ways you can support a friend who is facing the complexities of mental illness.
It can be really tempting to spout every piece of information we know about mental health at our friend so that they think we know what we’re talking about, but in all honesty one of the best things you can do is let them take the lead and listen to what they are feeling. You don’t need to have a theological response to suffering, you just need to listen to what they’re experiencing.
You don’t need to change who you are to support a friend – if you’re naturally quiet then why not suggest watching a funny film together, and if you’re more outgoing offer to accompany your friend out to a coffee shop if they’re feeling nervous about it. But while it’s good to encourage your friend to step out, don’t force them into something they aren’t ready for.
We’re pretty used to helping out friends who have physical illnesses, we might offer a lift to someone who’s broken their leg and can’t drive or cook a meal for sick friend. These things aren’t just useful for physical illnesses, quite often people with mental health conditions can struggle to take good care of themselves and so offering to take the dog for a walk, pick up some shopping or take round a lasagne – the millennial version of the quiche, I think – can be a real help.
If you friend is having difficulty getting to church, remind them of the sermon podcast they can listen to or take round the new Rend Collective album so that they can still feel connected to the church community even if they can’t be there physically.
We don’t need to dress up our tears before God. The Psalms are full of cries of despair and lament, which still glorify God. Part of supporting a friend with mental illness is encouraging them that having a mental illness is not a sin and our emotions can be brought before God in the same way that our physical conditions can be.
This post first appeared here last year.
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