Have you ever been in a situation where a friend reaches out and asks for advice on a problem they’re dealing with? By listening and responding to your friend you are providing something called social support.
Social support is the assistance that is accessible and provided by your social network to aid in difficult situations. This enhances one’s ability to cope with issues they’re dealing with and reduces feelings of isolation and helplessness by the care and love given to the individual. Social support can be categorised into four types: emotional, instrumental, informational and appraisal support. These can be combined with micro skills (skills that generate effective communication) to create methods of assistance for your friends in need.
Comfort your friend either by engaging in physical affection such as hugs or on a more emotional level by demonstrating empathy and giving encouraging, positive comments. Perform nice activities that indicate you care or want to help distract them. e.g. buy flowers or take them to dinner. Avoid judgement and only provide advice when it’s asked.
Individuals who are struggling are often less motivated and find day-to-day activities harder to complete. Do not shame your friend and avoid statements such as ‘just do it’, ‘it’s not that hard’. Rather, perform acts that make it easier for your friend to get through the day. These include, drive them to work, help them with their grocery shopping, babysit etc.. Stay in touch and be available to assist in small ways.
This is the kind of support where you provide advice and information to your friend to help them through their situation. To achieve this, micro skills can be implemented. Ensure that your full attention is given when your friend is opening up to you and remember to ask questions to deepen your understanding. Summarise what was said to you and replay it to your friend. This not only confirms your own interpretation of the situation but affirms to your friend that they have been heard. Provide appropriate advice to the best of your capacity. However, if you’re unable to, refer the individual towards someone who may have a better understanding in the field and remain supportive in the ways you can.
Provide positive affirmations that assist in enhancing self-evaluation. Due to possible increased levels of low self-worth and negative perceptions of oneself. It’s important to remain optimistic around your friend. Avoid pessimistic comments that blame or dismiss the problem. Micro skills such as focusing on the primary concern of the problem and challenging contrasting beliefs and behaviour is important in ensuring self-assessment is achieved properly.
Remember to Draw Boundaries
Only provide help you are able to give. Draw the line at your own mental health and happiness. This doesn’t mean ignoring your friend, but rather prioritise yourself and your needs and assist in ways that are comfortable for you.
Reaching out for Professional Help
There are several organisations that provide mental health information and that have help lines to assist individuals in need. Beyond Blue, Sane Australia, Lifeline and Headspace provide a myriad of services including a line that can be called for immediate support. Qlife provides LGBTI peer support and WellMob Online Counselling can be browsed in order to find Indigenous support.