“Oh HOW inconsiderate of her” you may say. But the social exclusion my husband and I feel from not being able to talk about his condition feels really cruel sometimes.
So I got to thinking about people I’ve known with Cancer and how they’ve wanted close friends to support them, but some just couldn’t.
So i looked to cancer websites and found that advice for friends of cancer sufferers actually will work for people with mental health too. Here’s what i found:
Helpful tips when supporting a friend
- Ask permission. Before visiting, giving advice, and asking questions, ask if it is welcome. Be sure to make it clear that saying no is perfectly okay.
- Make plans. Don’t be afraid to make plans for the future. This gives your friend something to look forward to.
- Be flexible. Make flexible plans that are easy to change in case something comes up or your friend needs to cancel or reschedule.
- Laugh together. Be humorous and fun when appropriate and when needed. A light conversation or a funny story can make a friend’s day.
- Allow for sadness. Do not ignore uncomfortable topics or feelings.
- Check in. Make time for a check-in phone call. Let your friend know when you will be calling. Also, let your friend know that it is okay not to answer the phone.
- Offer to help. Many people find it hard to ask for help. However, your friend will likely appreciate the offer. You can offer to help with specific tasks, such as taking care of children, taking care of a pet, or preparing a meal. However, if your friend declines an offer, don’t take it personally.
- Follow through. If you commit to help, it is important that you follow through on your promise.
- Treat them the same. Try not to let your friend’s condition get in the way of your friendship. As much as possible, treat him or her the same way you always have.
- Talk about other topics. Ask about interests, hobbies. People going through treatment sometimes need a break from talking about their condition.
- Read his or her blog, web page, or group emails. Some people blog about their experience .These updates are also a great way to start a conversation.
What to say
Don’t be afraid to talk with your friend. It is better to say, “I don’t know what to say” than to stop calling or visiting out of fear.
Here are some options to help show your care and support:
- I’m sorry this has happened to you.
- If you ever feel like talking, I’m here to listen.
- What are you thinking of doing, and how can I help?
- I care about you.
- I’m thinking about you.
Here are examples of phrases that are unhelpful:
- I know just how you feel.
- I know just what you should do.
- I’m sure you’ll be fine.
- Don’t worry.
There may be times when you want to give your friend a gift. As with any gift, keep in mind the interests and hobbies of your friend. A close friend may be able to give something really silly or unusual. A neighbor or work colleague may want to stick with something more traditional. Keep gifts fun, interesting, serious, or light, depending on what your friend needs the most at that moment.
Some ideas include:
- CDs or gift cards for downloadable music
- DVDs of movies, TV shows, or documentaries
- A housecleaning service
- Pajamas or robe
- Note cards or a journal
- Gift certificates for massage, spa services, restaurants, or museum/art gallery passes