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You don’t have to be an expert to talk about mental health you just need to show someone you care and are there to help them through the difficult time.

When a someone you care about is going through a difficult time, it can be worrying for everyone involved. You can be there for them by listening to them, not judging them and helping them access professional support if they need it.

Ask, listen and offer your support

If you think that someone you know might be having problems, try talking directly to them about your concerns. Ask how they are and what can you do to help them? People often want to talk but may find it hard to start the conversation.

Not everyone is comfortable or ready to talk face to face, so try texting them instead. Meet them where you know they feel comfortable and safe space to talk.

You are not expected to have all the answers or be able to solve anyone else’s problems. Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is list someone know you are there for them and simply listen and reassure them that they will be ok.

You can help by:

  • Asking open questions about how they are feeling.
  • Talking gently about your concerns and the things you have noticed.
  • Giving them time and space to tell you about what they are going through. Don’t feel the need to fill the silence or interrupt them, just let them open up and talk at their own pace.
  • Listening carefully to their responses, without being judgmental or offering solutions.

After you hear them out, make your decision about how serious you think the problem is and whether you need to encourage him or her to get professional support.

For many people, just asking – and listening – will help. It can be a huge relief for the other person to know you are aware of the struggle they are having, you are willing to listen with an open mind, and that you are there to help if they need it.

They may feel such relief that you noticed and have taken the time to ask them about it, that the problem will simply resolve itself by talking it out with you.

It can be difficult if you feel that someone you care about is going through a difficult time but won’t reach out for help. This can be very frustrating for you but it’s important that you remember that there are limits to the help that you can offer. Remember that there is only so much you can do, and try not to beat yourself up about it.

Be patient: it may take a while for them to open up and feel comfortable talking with you. Tell them that you are there for them when they are ready to seek help.

Remind them that talking is a sign of strength, not a weakness. The sooner you seek help the sooner the issue can be addressed.

However, if you are still worried about them seek professional help.

When someone tells you, they are having problems and you think they need professional support:

  • Suggest that they get it touch with o​n-­campus ​support services or their GP.
  • Yourmentalhealth.ie​has a county by county support service listing so that they can find the most suitable service off­-campus
  • Samaritans are also there to listen and offer round the clock support on 116 123
  • Ask if they’d find it helpful for you to accompany them to their appointment always taking your lead from them on what they would find most helpful.

Ask who else can help?

Encourage your friend to think of other people: family, friends, college staff or previously accessed services ­who may be able to help so that you both don’t have to deal with this alone.

It is usually better that the person goes for help themselves. This can be difficult to accept when you are worried about someone. But it is important for them to acknowledge that help is necessary, and going voluntarily for help, is an important part of the process of recovery.

If you feel your friend is suicidal or you are worried about, do not keep it to yourself. Talk to someone like a family member, lecturer or someone you trust who can help. You may have to break your friend’s trust on this but your friend needs help. They may not appreciate it at the moment and maybe angry but as time goes on they know that you have their best interest at heart.

If it is an emergency and you believe the person is a danger to themselves or others, you have to take action.

Sometimes a person will not consider getting help, but are a real danger to themselves or others. If they are having thoughts of harming themselves: ​remove access to any means of suicide or self-harm – such as medicines, a rope, blades etc.

In this instance, you must seek medical help immediately. Do not leave them on their own. Bring your friend to your nearest A&E department and ask for help. If they will not go with you call 999 or 112 and explain the situation. Stay with them throughout and reassure them you are there to support them.