Supporting your friends

A friend in need is a friend indeed

With it being Mental Health Awareness Month, we’ve gone ahead and surveyed the nation to find out how comfortable we are with talking about our own mental health, and supporting our friends and family with theirs.

What is Mental Health Awareness Month?

Mental Health Awareness Month is celebrated worldwide, with various organisations and charities using the month as an opportunity to raise awareness and promote mental health education.

Mental health problems can affect anyone, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, or social status. That’s why we want to do our part in raising awareness and help to reduce the stigma so that people understand how mental health issues can be part of everyday life, and we can show support in lots of different ways.

38% of Brits feel uncomfortable talking to their friends about their mental health

How comfortable are Brits with talking about their mental health?

Being open about mental health is not always an easy thing to do, but it’s crucial for supporting our loved ones. We surveyed 1,500 Brits and found that only 38% of our respondents feel comfortable talking to their friends about their mental health. From this, we can see that almost two-thirds (62%) don’t actually feel at ease talking about their mental health with others.

In fact, 49% of those we spoke to said they would tell family and friends that they are ‘fine’ even if they were struggling. What’s perhaps even more worrying is that 36% of us find it challenging to broach the subject with our mates, showing we need more open and honest education around all things mental health.

Of course, there are a lot of reasons why people might not feel like speaking up, even to their nearest and dearest, including a fear of judgement or shame associated with mental health issues. However, this isn’t always the case as our research found that just over half (51%) have had a friend bring up and share their mental health struggles.

Interestingly, we discovered that women find it easier to spot the signs that their friend is struggling with mental health compared to males. Men, on the other hand, find it more uncomfortable to talk to their friends about mental health. While we can’t say for certain, it is possible that this difference comes down to the fact that, stereotypically, men are told to hide their emotions.

How can we support our friends when they are struggling?

Our survey found 40% of people feel unsure of how to support a friend with mental health issues. If someone close to you is struggling with their mental health, it’s important to learn more about how you can help. Our survey found that the top five steps people take to support their friends when they’re struggling are:

  1. Calling them regularly – 55%
  2. Meeting up for a coffee – 42%
  3. Going for regular walks – 30%
  4. Keeping them in the loop with social events – 29%
  5. Helping them find professional support – 21%

Although these sound simple, sometimes just a phone call or a walk can make all the difference to someone who feels a little down! Letting them know when there are social events happening, and (if it’s appropriate) finding them professional support can help them feel less isolated whilst providing them with the additional resources they might need to improve their mental health.

The most supportive cities in the UK

Based on our survey, there are some cities in the UK that are more supportive than others when it comes to discussing mental health with friends and supporting people with it. The cities with the most supportive friendships include:

  • Southampton – 76%
  • Cardiff – 75%
  • Nottingham – 74%
  • Newcastle – 72%
  • Birmingham – 67%

While our data shows that individuals living in these cities are more likely to discuss mental health with their friends, this doesn’t mean that people living in other cities aren’t supportive!

Mental health support can come from anyone, anywhere, and to do your part in creating a safe space, you can find lots of information and support from resources such as the mental health charity, Mind.

How to look after your own mental health

Supporting someone who is struggling with their mental health can be emotionally taxing, and it’s crucial to prioritise your own wellbeing. Here are some simple but effective ways to look after your own mental health:

  1. Take care of your body – Eat healthily, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Taking care of your body can help reduce stress and improve your overall mental wellbeing.
  2. Take breaks – It’s okay to take breaks when you feel overwhelmed. Whether you take a walk, read a book, or do something else, it’s all about finding a way to relax.
  3. Connect with others – Talk to friends and family or attend a support group. Connecting with others can help you feel less alone and provide a sense of community.
  4. Set boundaries – It’s important to set boundaries to protect your mental health. This can include saying no to things that will cause you stress or setting limits on your social media or screen time.
  5. Find healthy ways to cope – Everyone has different ways of coping with stress and difficult emotions. It’s important to find healthy ways that work for you, such as meditation, yoga, or journaling.
  6. Seek help – If you are struggling with your mental health, seek professional help. This can include talking to your doctor, a therapist, or a mental health professional. Remember seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
    Remember, taking care of your own mental health is just as important as supporting others. So, take care of yourself and reach out for help when you need it.

If you want to show support to a friend or family member who’s going through a tough time, sending a card can be a great way to let them know you care and make them smile. Check out thortful’s range of send a smile greeting cards that offer words of support. Together, we can make a difference in raising awareness and supporting those who need it most.

For more articles on lifestyle and wellbeing topics such as our top tips for getting through a tough time and the small joys in life, be sure to check out the thortful blog.