When your mate is experiencing anxiety or depression – or just going through a difficult patch – moving from beers and banter into more emotional conversations can be an adjustment. You might not have a friendship where you’re used to talking about how you’re feeling. You might also be worried you’ll say something that will make things worse, or won’t know what to say at all.

Supporting a mate through a rough time can bring a whole new dimension to your friendship. The conversations are more honest and the friendship deepens. Don't worry about always having to say the right thing - just being there provides solid evidence to your friend that people care and that he matters.

Many people find talking about how they’re feeling to be extremely helpful. But they don’t want to talk about how they’re feeling all the time. So, if you’re supporting a friend, it can help to come up with a plan together for how you’re going to check-in without being a helicopter mate.

One way is to use a simple 10-point scale by asking, “How are you travelling today out of 10?”. One being the worst, 10 being the best.

The 10-point scale explains how things are in that moment – and what level of support your friend might need (you’ll learn over time if you need to take away a few points from their answer if they put on a brave front).

Depending on their score, this could involve anything from chilling in front a movie to having a deeper conversation, through to ringing a helpline.

You can use the scale to guide longer conversations too:

  • Point out their ability to cope and the positives in their life by asking, “What’s stopping you from being further down the scale?”
  • Draw on the good times by asking “What worked before when you were higher on the scale?”
  • Make improvement seem possible by asking “What would help today to nudge you forward one step?”

The scale also helps let him know that difficult moments will pass – they won’t be a two out of ten forever. They can move up and down the scale and at each point there are actions they can take that help, even if only a bit.

The scale also helps set up a plan about how you will handle the low score days together. This could be as simple as getting your mate to call you if they ever drop below a four.

The idea of a checking-in scale won’t be for everyone. But for those who find it hard to put into words what’s going on emotionally, it can be a helpful way of quickly communicating how they’re feeling to the people who care about them.

Related reading: Five booze-free activities

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