It's so easy to send memes, make jokes, and talk about absolutely nothing via text. But when it comes to
texting a friend to check in on them, finding the right words can be tough. If a friend is struggling with their mental health, you might worry about saying the wrong thing, hurting their feelings, or worse. And yet experts recommend reaching out anyway, especially if you haven't heard from them in a while.
"You want your friend to know that you are there for them and a safe person to turn to if they need to talk about their mental health,"
Lauren Consul, LMFT, JD, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle.
That doesn't necessarily mean straight up asking about their anxiety or depression. If you know they're
going through a tough time, all you really need to do is make contact. Sometimes sending an "I'm thinking of you" text is a great place to start as it'll brighten their day and help them feel less alone, Consul says. And yes, sometimes that "thinking of you text" can be in the form of a funny meme.
Just don't expect a lively conversation or a response right away. "Your friend may not be ready to talk," Consul says, and that's OK. If they know you are there consistently — in an open-minded and non-judgmental way — it really can mean the world.
Here, a few more
ways to check in on a friend so that they know you always have their back.
"I know you said you're not ready to talk. But I'm here when you are"
This is the perfect text to send when a friend is being a bit distant, or taking time to focus on themselves. They'll find comfort in the fact they can dip out of their social life for a while, and still have you when they come back.
But this is one to send to a friend who's pushing people away, as well, perhaps due to a mental health condition. Don't cross their boundaries, but go ahead and wedge yourself into their life just a little bit, so they know they're not alone.
"Hey, I'm stopping by the grocery store, let me know if you need anything"
"Often those with
mental health conditions struggle with maintaining their daily functioning," Kathryn Lee, MHC, a mental health counselor, tells Bustle. So if you know your friend isn't doing the best, go ahead and offer a hand.
This text is also a slick way to gauge how they've been feeling. If they confirm they need help buying groceries, that's when you follow up and get more info, to
make sure they're OK.
"Wanted to let you know I'm thinking of you!"
If you've ever
struggled with your mental health, then you know how isolating it can be. "This text is an affirming one that reminds the friend that they are not alone," Lee says. It's so simple, yet so effective.
"Hi, I saw this and immediately thought of you :) How've you been?"
If you happen to see or hear something that reminds you of the friend in question — like their favorite song or movie — text them immediately and let them know. Then ask how they are.
According to Lee, this text will bring back a positive memory for your friend, which might perk them up a little. It also creates space for a longer convo, if they're up for it.
"Get ready, we're going for a walk."
Text your friend and (gently) demand they get ready, because you're taking them on a walk, out for coffee, etc.
"Your friend may not be motivated to get dressed and go out when feeling stressed or overwhelmed,"
Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, a clinical psychologist, tells Bustle, but a little push like this one can make all the difference.
And it's not just about the drinks, Romanoff says. The process of getting dressed and following through with plans, however small, can change someone's mindset and set them up for similar positive behaviors in the future.
"Omg. Remember when you watched my dog?"
"Sometimes the self-talk that underlies depression or anxiety involves evaluations of the self as weak or damaged,"
Heather Z. Lyons, PhD, a licensed psychologist, tells Bustle.
So think of a time when your friend came through — like when they changed your flat tire, or watched your dog while you went on vacation — and remind them of it.
As Lyons says, reminding them of a time when they were amazing or did something positive "can help counter some of that self-talk."
This one is direct and to the point,
Kate DeStefano-Torres, MA, LPC, NCC, ACS, BC-TMH, a licensed professional counselor, tells Bustle. And yet incredibly helpful, all the same.
The last thing you want is for your friend to go days without hearing from anyone, especially since a lack of social support is a known risk factor for worsening depression, she says.
By reaching out throughout the week, just to check in, you'll be providing an important sense of connection.
"No need to respond, but just wanted to say hey!"
According to DeStefano-Torres, it's not uncommon for folks struggling with their mental health to not have the energy or clarity of mind to
respond to texts.
They also often feel guilty or stressed when messages pile up, which is why it's super cool to start a text by reminding them that's OK. Simply say hi, and let them know they can write back whenever.
"I saw you posted on Instagram and wanted to make sure you're OK."
If you notice something out of the ordinary — like a post on social media that has negative undertones — take that as your cue to reach out.
"Even though it might feel awkward, because talking about feelings can be awkward sometimes, your friend will appreciate it,"
Ingrid Camacho, MHC, MA, a mental health counselor, tells Bustle. "Texting a friend who you know is struggling will make them feel thought of, cared about, and loved. Fight past the awkwardness and send that text!"
"Hey, just wanted to hear more about what's been going on."
If you ask a friend if they're OK or if they feel sad, they can easily write back with a one word response — and that'll be the end of the conversation.
But if you get into the habit of asking things like "What's been going on?" or "How have you been feeling?" Camacho says, it can help your friend open up a little more.
They might benefit from discussing their feelings, and you'll benefit from getting more info, so you can figure out more ways to support them. This could include anything from checking in more often, to
helping them find a therapist.
"What do you need right now?"
It's tempting to jump into problem-solving mode when texting a
friend who's struggling with their mental health, but experts say giving advice is a surefire way to invalidate their feelings.
"Instead," Camacho says, "try something like 'I'm here for you. What do you need from me right now?'" Then listen.
If they ask for advice, give it. But chances are your friend will just want to vent, and that's OK. By being there for them via text, you'll be playing a key role in helping them feel better.
Sources: Lauren Consul, LMFT, JD, licensed marriage and family therapist Kathryn Lee, MHC, mental health counselor Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, clinical psychologist Heather Z. Lyons, PhD, licensed psychologist Kate DeStefano-Torres, MA, LPC, NCC, ACS, BC-TMH, licensed professional counselor Ingrid Camacho, MHC, MA, mental health counselor