This issue is important to me because there are a lot of sites that help young people suffering from mental health problems. That said, there aren't enough websites for young people on how to support a friend. 20% of adolescents may experience mental health issues in any given year, so others need to understand how to be there for a friend in need. This is also a very important subject that should be vocalised more often.
This is vital if you want to understand the feelings and symptoms your friend may be going through. You should research their symptoms, emotions and what may have caused them to have this mental disorder. It would also be helpful to inform their family, if that person is comfortable with it and if their family do not know about their illness, as it could be useful if something severe happened to your friend.
Be ready to listen
You need to be ready to listen to everything they have to say to you. Your friend may be in denial about their problems, and if so, express your concern and encourage them to talk to a responsible adult. Talk to them when they are calm and ask questions like “How can I help?” and “What would you find helpful?”. Never assume what your friend needs as you could be wrong and, even though unintentional, your actions may upset them and leave them feeling overwhelmed and distressed.
Avoid giving simple solutions
Although it might be tempting to give these solutions out of frustration, don't do it! If you tell a person with an eating disorder to “Just eat” or tell a depressed person to “Just be happy” it won’t work. Mental health is a complex subject and they wouldn’t be suffering if it was that simple.
Encourage them to seek medical advice
If they are getting worse and it is obvious that they need medical help or attention, encourage them to go. Encourage them to seek professional advice. If they understand and are okay with it, consult their family and let them know what their loved one is facing and how they can help.