Supporting a friend with a mental health condition



Key points about supporting a friend with a mental health condition

  • Because 1 in 6 New Zealanders are diagnosed with a mental health disorder during their life, chances are someone you know is quietly battling with their own mental wellbeing.
  • There are many ways you can support someone who’s been diagnosed with a mental health condition once they’re receiving the right treatment.
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1. Learn about their condition

Understand more about their condition – what symptoms to look out for, what can trigger it and what the different treatment options are (including but not limited to medications). If you know a bit about the complexity of what causes mental distress it can help you understand, and explain to others, why they can’t just snap out of it.

Mental distress isn’t any different from a physical illness. If someone is diagnosed with heart problems, they wouldn’t hesitate in seeking treatment. Mental health conditions are the same and should be talked about and treated just like any physical distress.

2. Keep them connected with friends and their community

Staying connected with people is important for everyone’s mental wellbeing. If your loved one is finding it too overwhelming to meet up with other friends, organise a catch for just the two of you. If there’s a community class or activity they usually enjoy but can’t face going to, go with them (you might even find a new activity you enjoy for yourself!). Encourage them to stay active.

3. Listen

Don’t be afraid if you don’t know what to say. It’s better to admit you don’t know than avoid them for fear of saying the wrong thing. Usually, your friend just needs someone to listen to them and not pass judgement or offer advice. Make sure that what they tell you is kept in confidence, unless you’re worried for their safety.

4. Have realistic expectations

By understanding their condition, it can help you know what you can expect of them, and what they can manage to do for themselves. If you live with someone with a mental health condition, expectations could be about getting up at the same time each morning, showering every day and helping with household chores. Expectations can change on a day to day basis depending on how they are coping.

5. Offer practical help

Your friend or family member might not be able to tell you what they need. Practical help such as providing a meal, walking their dog or dropping their kids off at school can be a big help.

The videos below may take a few moments to load.

Video: Hear For You Sione - a short film about Mental Wealth


(Le Va, NZ, 2018)

Video: A.E.I.O.U #WeR - English version

(He Waka Tapu, NZ, 2018)
This video is also available in te reo Māori.(external link)

Video: How to ask a schoolmate R U OK? (full version)


(R U OK, Australia, 2019)

Video: What are the signs it's time to ask? (R U OK?)


(R U OK, Australia, 2019)

Video: Is it time to ask? (R U OK?)


(R U OK, Australia, 2019)

Video: How to be a good mate


(R U OK, Australia, 2019)

Video: How to be a good friend and ask R U OK? (K-6)


(R U OK, Australia, 2019)

Video: How do I ask?


(R U OK, Australia, 2019)

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Credits: Healthify Editorial Team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

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