When mates are going through a hard time, it can be just as tough to figure out how best to reach out, and what exactly to say. Beyond checking in, is there anything else we can be doing?

by Tom M Ford

Mr Porter and Movember came up with 33 ways to be a better friend. Have a read below and get stuck in, stop scrolling and call a friend...

 01. Be relentless

“I’ve always found that being consistent and bloody relentless as a friend when times get tough is the way to go. It means that they know in the back of their minds that you’ll be there and tend to be more likely to reach out early before the shit hits the fan. Friends don’t need rescuing, they just need to be listened to, and more importantly, heard. So, start by asking, don’t assume what’s going on.”

Dr Zac Seidler, clinical psychologist and director of Mental Health Training, Movember

02. Be a good listener

06. Be mindful

Chances are, a man close to you is struggling with their mental health right now. It can be tricky to spot the signs. A friend who’s not sleeping, a colleague who’s lost interest, a man in your family who’s more irritable than normal. Check out Movember’s guide to spotting the signs at: 


07. Know what to say

Watching for changes in behaviour and asking observational questions can let the person know you’re paying attention. “I’ve noticed you’ve been pretty down lately. What’s going on?”, “You don’t seem like yourself. Are you OK?” or “Haven’t heard from you in a while, is everything OK?”

08. Be a smart “Alec”

Communication and connection are important – now more than ever. Many men are dealing with losing a job, financial stress, loneliness and other triggers affecting their mental health. Ask: try starting by mentioning anything different you’ve noticed. Listen: give him your full attention, without interruptions. Don’t feel you have to diagnose problems, offer solutions or give advice. Encourage action: help him to focus on simple things that might improve his wellbeing – is he getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and eating properly? Check-in: suggest you catch up again soon.

09. Be present

“Being a great friend to me means making sure that I’m present to people. We seem to live such distracted lives – we seem to be going here, there and everywhere. To be a good friend means that I will stop and really connect with what is happening in their life. I think at a deeper level it is allowing them to be vulnerable with me and vice versa.”

Mr Kamal Sarma, CEO of Rezilium, mental resilience coach

10. Have an honest conversation

“There’s a lot that goes into making and maintaining a good friendship. Reciprocity, compromise, appreciation of one another’s opinions and perspectives, and honest conversation are just some of the things that contribute to a lasting bond with your mates. Showing genuine care for your friend, just as you would want others to do for you, is a great way to build trust and show that you’ve got each other’s backs through thick and thin. Finally, make time for each other; a good friendship shouldn’t be taken for granted.''

Professor John Ogrodniczuk, director of psychotherapy, University of British Columbia

11. Be understanding

In 2015, FifPro found that 38 per cent of active footballers suffered from mental health issues. Anyone can feel depressed or anxious, so don’t be surprised if your friend does, or assume that they don’t.

12. Take it seriously

Every minute, a man takes his own life. Mental health is not to be taken lightly.

13. Be vigilant

Mental health is a leading cause of disability worldwide and one in four men have reported worsened mental health since the pandemic.

14. Put the phone down

Reach out: since the outbreak of the pandemic, 50 per cent of men have never been asked whether they’re having a hard time.


19. Be sensitive

One in six men have often felt lonely since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. Stay tuned in to changes in behaviour – has a friend gone quiet on the group chat? Did they post something out of character on social media?


20. Be resourceful

You don’t have to ask a friend how they are. Send them a meme, arrange a coffee, share an article, send them a Spotify recommendation, ask them about work, ask their opinion on something you both care about, congratulate them on something they’ve achieved, text to say you miss them, send them an old picture.

21. Be interested

“Borrowing from Oprah – be interested and interesting... and knowing from the outset that the friendships that last are built on a reciprocity of mutual help. Never go it alone.”

Professor John Oliffe, founder of Men’s Health Research, University of British Columbia

22. Be aware

Did you know: 2.5 million men in the UK say they do not have a single friend whom they could turn to in a crisis.


23. Understand the causes

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the major causes of poor mental health among men. These include: social isolation, fears about job security, money worries, strains on a relationship, anxiety, stress.

24. Go beyond the “like”

Research conducted in 2018 by the University of Pennsylvania found that limiting social media to 30 minutes a day significantly reduces loneliness and depression. Do something more meaningful with your mate.

25. Get serious

According to a YouGov poll in 2017, almost a quarter of young men (16-24) self-harm to cope with depression. Samaritans says you can support such men by: listening and responding in a non-judgemental way, remaining calm, acknowledging the intensity of their distress, focusing on the feelings and emotions behind their self-harm, checking how you can best help them, and offering to help find them support. Openly offer your time and make sure they understand that you are there to help them.


26. Watch the drink

“Family relationships often come with a dose of guilt and obligation. Friends, on the other hand, are the antidote to the burdens of daily life.”

The New York Times’ Smarter Living “How To be A Better Friend”

29. Discuss your problems

According to telegraph.co.uk, “A 2016 US study of more than 100,000 men highlighted how male self-confidence is affected by body image; disturbingly, fewer than half of the men surveyed were satisfied with their body.” Low self-esteem is a big driver and symptom of depression and anxiety. Tell your mates what you like about them.


33. Put them in your calendar

“I run a business so sometimes I can be a bit forgetful especially with the people closest to me. So, when I have a conversation with a mate and they share that they have something important coming up, whether it’s an interview, a conversation or a project they’re working on, I make sure to ask when it’s happening. As quickly as possible I pop a note in my diary to text or call them on that date. A simple message like, ‘Thinking of you today. You’ve got this!’ can make all the difference.”

Mr Sean Hall, CEO of Energx


Brothers in Arms