Time to Talk: How to reach out for support, or be there for your friends who’ve asked for help

When someone reaches out, it can be hard to know how to listen to them. Here are some tips to make it easier for you and your friends to give and get support.

It’s Time To Talk day – one day of the year that solely focuses on mental health. Ideally, we should talk about mental health on all 365 days of the year, but at least we have one where it is the specific focus. 

1 in 4 of us will experience some kind of mental health issue every year, so we should all get used to talking about mental health, as the stigma surrounding mental health is still unfortunately quite high. 

Talking about mental health can also create a supportive community that can empower us to get help, so why isn’t this a common practice. Fear of being un-supported? Not knowing how to reach out? 

Here are some ideas to help you be there for someone who has reached out, and what to ask for when you do reach out yourself: 

  1. Ask your friends and family about how they are feeling in regards to what they are going through. This will help you to understand their perspective and experience. Try to ask open questions, such as “how does this make you feel” and “why”? It is important to avoid being judgemental, as this could cause them to retreat and not talk about their mental health.
  2. Positioning can be important. If face to face talking isn’t working, try side to side or back-to-back. This can relieve the pressure of talking about a delicate issue while looking at someone. They might also prefer to write their feelings down, or even sing them.
  3. Also, make sure that the conversation is happening in the right time or place. Think about privacy, and what else they might be doing at the time. Help them let their guard down at a time when this is possible. 
  4. You are not a fixer! Just listen to them and let them relieve their burden. They have probably tried many different strategies to help themselves and giving them more ideas may stress them out more. Just listening can be a great and effective strategy. 
  5. Plus, treat them the same as before you listened to them. Make them feel safe and not different just because they have told you something private. They are still the same person as before. 

Talking from personal experience, I prefer turning off the lights and sitting comfortably in a closed room with someone I trust. Everyone is different. Just find your own preference! 

Distance learning can also add another layer of difficulty to this conversation. Sitting at a desk for however long you do, can affect you long term and can lead to some mental health issues, such as increased anxiety and stress relating to upcoming deadlines and those pesky TMAs and EMAs. 

Just allowing some regular breaks allows us to come back to our work, feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the task ahead. Taking the time to talk to our loved ones and relieving ourselves of the pressures we feel is always needed, as most likely it may just be internalised pressures on ourselves and talking about them may help relieve it. 

If there is no one that you believe that you can reach out to, the OU have partnered with the Shout text line. All you need to do is text ‘OU’ to 85258 and you can get the free and confidential help you need 24/7 regarding anxiety, abuse, loneliness, self-harm or suicide. 

There is also ‘Togetherall’ which you can use after you have signed up with your OU email address. They can give you free mental health advice if you are struggling with issues such as lack of sleep, feeling low, stressed or struggling to cope. 

Please reach out, you are not alone. 

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