Everyone knows how important and helpful it is to hear words of support when they're struggling with mental health or going through a tough time in life. No matter what someone might be dealing with, that one simple sign that says, "Hey, I'm thinking about you!" or "You can do this!" can be the one thing that keeps them going.
Unfortunately, even though everybody needs a friend to lean on or vent to once in a while, not many people reach out for help. The stigma that permeates society surrounding mental illnesses or being "weak" is so strong and shameful that many people are too scared or embarrassed to ask for help. They end up putting on a "happy" face to seem fine in front of friends when they're really suffering in silence and desperately wanting to reach out.
Even with very close friends, it can be extremely difficult to see through a facade and figure out whether someone is secretly struggling—which is exactly why it's crucial to remember to check in on your friends every once in a while. Even the cheeriest exterior can hide emotional distress, and many people either don't know how to bring up their mental health or are unwilling to talk about it due to stigma and shame—so don't rely on appearances and don't wait for warning signs or for a friend to start the conversation themselves before you reach out.
No matter how close of a friend they are, sometimes the people closest to us are just too scared or embarrassed to let us know that they need help. That's why it's so important for us to take the lead and check in with them, instead of just dismissing gut feelings and assuming they're okay. Even if someone doesn't immediately open up to you or acknowledge the fact that they're struggling, they'll know that they have someone who loves and cares about them—which is enough to push them forward and keep them hanging on for the time being.
I used to be that person who just assumed a friend would come and tell me if something was wrong. Even if I had a gut feeling that something was off (which was true most times), I was too self-conscious about coming off as overbearing or overdramatic to actually reach out. It wasn't until I went through the most severe bout of depression and anxiety I've ever had that I realized just how desperate I was for anyone to do or say anything that showed they cared about me. I couldn't muster the courage to bring it up to even my closest friends—I was too ashamed to admit anything was wrong and too afraid of being met with judgment or comments like "Just get over it," "You don't have anything to feel sad about" or "Just cheer up!" During those times, I know I would've felt enormously better and less alone if I had just heard from one person or gotten one text message that said, "Hey, I hope you're doing okay."
And I know I'm not the only one who's felt like this before—practically everyone, mentally ill or not, has gone through tough times when they've had to put up a front to friends or family and suffer alone. But no one deserves that. Even on your worst days or when you know you haven't been the most supportive friend yourself—no one deserves to go through anything by themselves.
So if this article does anything, let it serve as an inspiration to call up or text a friend to check in with them today. It can be anything—"I'm thinking about you," "I hope you're doing well" or even just a simple "How are you doing?" And as life goes on, make it a habit. Send your friends a DM on Twitter once in a while, or on Snapchat, or through email, or whatever—just make it a habit to make sure your friends are okay and to let them know they matter. That's what friends are for, after all.