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My Mate is struggling - How can I help? (Man Talk)

At some point in your life you may come across a friend who is struggling with their well being.

This isn't always the easiest territory to navigate as a mate and you may find you are struggling to broach the subject with them and check in. Men in particular inform me that that discussing each other's well being is still not done comfortably and with ease.

There are of course hundreds of reasons why your friend may be struggling right now. However there are usually some key aspects of life that might cause a little discord between the mate you know and the mate you are seeing on the day to day, that begins to cause concern.

Some of the most common issues that can be a catalyst for these triggers:

1) Financial Pressures.

2) Relationships - Navigating new ones or retaining existing ones.

3) Work Pressures.

4) Bullying.

5) Loss or Grief.

6) Fatherhood - New Roles or dealing with parental dynamics.

7) Body Image - not being happy with themselves/appearance.

8) Health - worry about physical or mental health.

9) Success and Masculinity - Perceived success and male "stereotypes" and "roles" still plays a key part in a mans self-worth.

10) Trauma and Significant life changes.

How might you spot if your friend is struggling?

  • Change in Mood - acting out of sorts, snappy or impatient.

  • Withdrawing - turning down/cancelling social plan, being quieter or distracted in conversation.

  • Turning to drink or drugs to cope

  • Weight loss or weight gain

  • Looking tired or complaining of fatigue.

  • Out of Character - making moral choices that seem out of character.

Ways to support your friend:

Space& time for each other - when someone is low, even if the last thing they say they want is company, the gesture of having time and space for them is a helpful resource for building self-esteem and trust.

Do something with purpose - building self esteem and low mood can be helped with a project or task that involves you both to contribute - this can be anything from fixing your car, to helping out on a home improvement project

Space to Talk - Create space to talk when a friend shares they aren't really wanting you to actually fix it for them.... They probably just need some space to talk it out and find what it right for them. See yourself as a facilitator for their problem solving. Consider asking questions and helping them find the facts, reflect things back to them so they feel listened too and ask them what they want to happen from the situation.

Share a story - a great technique (if you know what the issue is) can be to tell an example of a friend or acquaintance who had a similar problem. This technique is also known as "my friend Sam" giving a perspective that is similar to their own can reduce the feeling of isolation a personal issue can have and it also helps the person to disassociate from their issue and gain a new perspective - which is a powerful way for them to problem solve a solution.

Open Up - Whilst your aim isn't to detract from their challenges or feel like you are burdening them further, sharing a challenge or problem (that you have hopefully resolved) can make for a safer space to openly share. If you are role modelling talking about your own well being this creates a trust space. I have heard people doing this really well with examples such as vague as " work was seriously stressful last week" to " I sometime ask myself if I am a good father".

Say thank you - when someone does open up or share their challenges they are not always expecting to get a resolution from you - the space is often enough. Sharing your emotional insecurities is a big thing for many and showing gratitude for someone for sharing that with you, for trusting to share it with you deserves a thank you.

Let them know they can to get help - As well as demonstrating that talking and friendship are great ways to resolve their challenges, if your friend is really overwhelmed or struggling sometimes they may need some further support from a professional or support service. This is also important for maintaining the boundaries of a solid and reliable friendship. There are limits to the expectations we can have of each other in a friendship and strong and dependable relationships define this. You are not expected to solve the other persons issues. Opening up the space to facilitate their resolve is enough. Signpost them to a GP or local well being service - a simple search for these will throw up local and national groups.

Online resources - the internet is a great place to point your friend to for further anonymous support I have listed a few websites below that can be useful for people struggling with their mental health, well -being or general happiness.

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