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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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We asked the Happy Place star to draw on her personal experiences to give advice on what to say, and what not to say, when speaking to a friend about mental health. 

Anxiety and depression can be hard to talk about – especially considering the substantial social stigma that even milder mental health conditions still garner.

This often means that people going through difficult periods for the first time can end up feeling scared, isolated and alone, believing that they have nobody to talk to. 

Someone who knows about this firsthand is Stylist Live speaker Fearne Cotton. On the surface, she 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.

It is for this reason that Cotton 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 talks openly about mental health in her incredible podcast, Happy Place, and helped turn our website into a more positive environment last March when we asked her to come in and takeover stylist.co.uk for the day.

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.

We asked the author and presenter for some 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 experiences, Cotton gave us these four tips to remember. 

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 

“If someone comes to you and opens up and says they might have depression, anxiety issues, extreme phobias, debilitating panic attacks, don’t go ‘oh god I had a panic attack the other day, you know, in the supermarket. Or, yeah 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.” 

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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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