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Fearne Cotton on what not to say to a friend with mental health problems

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Megan Murray
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For Mental Health Awareness Week, Fearne Cotton has some tips on how to speak to friends about mental health. 

None of us are immune from having days when our mental health feels fragile, and it can be difficult to talk about.

But being on the receiving end of that conversation can be awkward too, as you don’t want to say the wrong thing and cause someone to close off after they’ve been brave enough to open up.

Luckily, Fearne Cotton is here to help. The writer and TV and radio presenter appears to have it all: an award-winning career, a successful fashion line, her own podcast, a series of best-selling books and a loving young family. But she has always been open about her struggles with anxiety and depression, in a bid to tackle the stigma that so many women often face – and remind us that appearances can be deceiving.

“Bad news makes me open my eyes a little wider”: Fearne Cotton 

Cotton has talked openly about mental health in her incredible podcast, Happy Place, so when addressing the difficulty many of us can face in communicating on the topic of mental illness, we couldn’t think of anyone better to share their thoughts than her.

“Having a chat about mental health issues or problems in life can definitely feel problematic at times. It can be hard to offload that information and talk to someone, but it can be equally as difficult to be on the other end of that,” Cotton recognises.

Cotton gives advice on how to speak to a friend if you suspect they’re going through a difficult time, or how to react if they come to you with a mental health problem, drawing on her own personal experience.

Here are the tips she wants us to follow.

1. Don’t be flippant

If someone does come to you, definitely don’t just say: “Cheer up, everything is going to be fine soon.” Because when that person is in that moment, it certainly doesn’t feel like it. And it might take quite a lot to get them out of it, it might take professional counselling, it might take just a really great group of friends and brilliant people to talk to, many variables that can get them out of that place.

2. Don’t judge them 

“I’m sure none of you would, but don’t judge them. Because whatever they’re going through, if they’ve bravely, courageously come to you to tell their story, let them talk and be there in whatever way they need.” 

3. Don’t compare to your own experience 

“So if someone comes to you and opens up and says they think they might have depression, anxiety issues, extreme phobias, debilitating anxiety, panic attacks, don’t go ‘oh god, yeah, I had a panic attack the other day, you know, in the supermarket’ or ‘I was really depressed last week’ if it isn’t true.”

4. Do share advice 

“If you feel like you have got advice or your own experience that could help then of course, share that with them and make that conversation a really positive transaction. 

If you’re both sat there being really authentic and really honest with each other then that can be a really game-changing moment and a really important conversation.” 

Images: Getty

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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