My friend has a mental illness, how do I help?

posted in: Help, Personal Stories | 0

At one point or another, there’s a great chance that you will know somebody struggling with a mental illness. Knowing how to help a friend is almost as important as knowing how to help yourself. It can make all the difference.

I suffered from anorexia nervosa for four years. For those of you who don’t know, anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by restricting diet and excessive exercise.

It began when I was fourteen and had just started high school. A combination of anxiety about this transition and insecurity about being far less than my image of perfect created the perfect storm. I began restricting my eating and working out excessively.

I completed my treatment prior to coming to university in the fall and since then, I’ve been able to stay healthy with the support of friends and family. Through all the guidance I’ve received from people involved in my journey to recovery, I was able to discover what strategies were truly helpful to me.

The tips I’ll share are things that worked for me, but everybody is different. Everyone’s struggle is individual so make sure you adapt to the friend that you’re helping.




I was always very insecure about people looking at me and seeing anorexia instead of myself, Victoria. I still went to parties and to movies like everybody else. I still did my homework and turned in assignments and celebrated holidays with my family.

Some people would tip toe around their words with me and I didn’t like that. I hated feeling like I was different. I encourage people to act as you always would, because your friend is the same person, they just have this extra mountain to climb.

Remember, above all these tips, help someone who may be struggling with a mental illness find the resources they need. Referring them to a mental health professional can be a difficult conversation to have, but it may be essential. Making sure they are aware of the resources available to them is key to their recovery.

With mental health being such an important fixture in our lives, we must know how to handle it when we, or someone close to us, is mentally unwell.

Friends are so important to our mental health and having them by your side can make a huge difference.