Tips For Checking In With Your Friends - By Andrew Cullen

For many people you may believe the best way to ‘check-up’ on someone or to reach out is to ask “How are you doing?” but for many this may only scratch the surface. It might allow for the main issues that someone is facing to be brushed over or perhaps, hidden. 

With times like the present it’s important to reach in as opposed to expecting others to reach out! A simple message, conversation or acknowledgement is all it takes to make a difference. It only takes a second to save a life. 

So if you’re reading this, you might me wondering what is the best way to actually do this. The person you’re asking may not want to feel as if ‘they’re being a burden’ to you or don’t want to be seen to be ‘too deep’ for a regular chat perhaps, they’re not even too sure of their feelings themselves. Therefore here’s some tips for reaching in without just asking “how are you doing?”. 

1. Provide some insight into your own life and your feelings. 

Opening a conversation with what you’ve been up to or how you’re feeling can be a good indicator to show the person you’re speaking to that you are open to discussing emotions also allowing for a development of trust with that person too. Engaging with them with a statement such as; 

“I’ve been so tired recently, work has been keeping me so busy. It can be so stressful at times but it’ll get better soon. How are things with you, how have you been feeling?” 

A simple opener like the one above can then lead to a conversation about managing emotions or an opportunity for the other person to discuss any problems within their life. At this stage it’s good to listen as opposed to speaking. After initiating the conversation, the person you’re dealing with may not have anyone to discuss their feelings with so it’s important to provide real interest in what they say and to show that you care. 

2. Be specific.

For some people being direct, can be the best approach. Try and avoid asking closed questions that will result in a “yes or no” answer. Open ended questions such as “what have you been thinking about?” or even, “how has your day been?” will help to progress the conversation, this can lead to further developments in your relationship and friendship with this person. If the person chooses to open up to you, then great! Be there and be supportive but it’s important to remember to not treat the issues as if they are your own, you don’t want yourself to end up feeling down or develop any similar feelings to the person you’re speaking to. It’s good when entering into these conversations to have contact details prepared such as ‘Shout’ their number is 85258. This is a free, confidential, 24-hour, text messaging service for anyone who is struggling to cope.

3. Offer your support, make a plan together... and be sure to follow it up!

It may be that this person is just looking for some human interaction or has been feeling lonely or isolated. With the current ongoing pandemic, feelings and expressions can be heightened and all though this can provide issues for socialising there is many alternatives to staying connected! This could even be to arrange to go a walk, outdoor activity can often be good for the mind and your body, it’s a good way to clear their thoughts. Staying connected digitally is proving more popular too! With software such as Zoom and FaceTime being widely accessible and used, you could arrange; a movie night, a quiz, bingo, the opportunities are endless. Be creative in your ideas if not, there’s lot of resources online. 

Whatever you choose, make sure to follow through with these plans. It’s inevitable and understandable that things may get in the way or occur but where possible, arrange an alternative day or time. It’s important to see the plans through at some point! To show the person that you stay true to your word, hopefully giving them something to look forward to as well. 

4. Offer support, without asking questions.

Sometimes a message, that doesn’t require a response can be a great way to show someone that you care. You could even start by saying “I know you have a lot on, so no need to reply,  I just wanted to let you know I’m here for you. Whether you’re struggling or would like a chat, I am always a message away”. A simple yet effective way to communicate, sometimes gestures such as saying “I miss seeing you” can let that person know that they have a supportive network around them. Making them feel valued and important. Holding space by using this method can allow you to not be too intrusive but will still let the person know you’re there for them. 

5. Be curious!

It’s good to be interested but try not to be forceful. It’s important to remember that if you know one person with mental health, then you only know one person. Every case is different and it’s good practice to treat each person in a way that’s suitable and appropriate for them. If the person is open to discussing their mental health or whether you’re the person being reached out to, it’s natural for others to be curious. Never do anything, you’re not comfortable doing or speaking about. Supporting one another and helping each other is so crucial! Engaging in conversations for tips and advice can be very helpful. “Have you read any books or watched any shows recently?” or asking “what do you find is helpful to relax?” questions like these show you’re interested in knowing, but it may also be useful to take note, as this could help you too! 

So to draw this blog to an end, always remember... be real, not perfect. We all will face these challenging times, for some of us it will be very new and for others these effects will be lasting. Therefore, if you can be there for someone, then please do!

Access the relevant resources, be interested and be genuine. Take each person as you find them and strive to be the person that makes someone feel; welcome, seen, heard, valued, loved and supported. 

Take care and stay safe!

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