OK, so it’s Mental Health Week. How can I actually help a struggling friend?

Published 2019-05-10 15:58

Teen shares personal story of struggle

How are you?

It’s a simple question that a lot of us forget to ask ourselves.

That’s why for more than 60 years now, Mental Health Week has served as a reminder for Canadians to start conversations about how they’re feeling and how to support one another. This year, it’s this week.

OK — but how do we actually support someone who’s struggling?

Jack.org — a Canadian mental health organization for youth — recently surveyed more than 1,200 young people and found that, although 83 per cent have supported a friend struggling with their mental health, only 39 per cent felt prepared to do so.

So even though it seems like we’re talking about mental health more than ever, many of us don’t actually know how to be a mental helper.

Learning to let people in

Erin Kendal, 15, from Maple, Ont., knows a thing or two about what healthy support looks like. She has struggled with her mental health her whole life.

She said support from friends has helped her manage disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Kendal said she’s a big believer in the five golden rules of Jack.org’s Be There project, which just launched as part of Mental Health Week 2019.

The five rules serve as a basic outline for how to support somebody who is struggling with their mental health.

They are:

1/ Say what you see.

2/ Show you care.

3/ Hear them out.

4/ Know your role.

5/ Connect to help.

But what do these all mean? Kendal explains how these golden rules work in the following video.

Kendal shared this personal story about a friend who really came through for her following a traumatic experience in Grade 8.

She also shared her story alongside her friend Gaya as part of the Be There project.

'Just be there'

Charlotte Johnston, chapter coordinator for Jack.org, also took part in the Be There project.

She stressed how crucial it is to make kids aware of their own mental health, and how to foster it:

“It’s important to remember that everyone has mental health, not just adults. Mental health struggles don’t discriminate.” 

She also says that even adults have a hard time knowing how to support another person in an informed way.

“What’s amazing is that by learning and practising these skills from a young age, kids can not only help each other, but can actually help their parents learn how to start these types of conversations, too.”

To learn more about the Be There project and its golden rules, visit their website at BeThere.org.

Charlotte Johnston says even adults have a hard time knowing what to say to a friend who is struggling with their mental health. (Jack.org)