Having support and people around you when struggling with mental health is essential, it helps with feelings of loneliness and that feeling that you are a burden on people. But some people have that desire in them that they can ‘fix’ you and make it all just disappear, which can be frustrating if you are already struggling a little.
Mental health isn’t something that can simply just be fixed like a broken toy or a broken vase, it’s a journey of recovery and with every journey it’s going to take twists and turns and winding roads but that journey is going to make you an even stronger more determined person.
Watching a person you care about go through depression I would imagine can be hard. You want to be there to wipe away their tears, pick them up when they are down, take the pain away and make them happy when they are sad but in reality it’s so much more than that. It’s the moments when you feel utterly hopeless, you want to shut the world away and just hide under the duvet for the day, when simply having someone just ‘being there’ for you is enough. It’s not about ‘let’s get you up and dressed’ and ‘let’s get you out of the house’ because at that moment we really don’t feel like it and that added pressure of how we should be behaving will just add to the weight we are already carrying.
Unless you have battled with mental health yourself you probably won’t know what to do in this kind of situation. Some people slowly disappear out of your life because they don’t know how to support you and that’s ok, if they had the strength or cared enough I'm sure they would stick around. It’s not about quick fixes and there is no one size fits all answer. It’s not a logical problem that you have to solve, it’s about listening, support, the occasional text/message to show that you care and just being there when they need you.
It takes a lot of courage to open up and speak up if you're struggling, it’s the fear of judgement and negative comments that can delay or put someone off speaking out, reaching out can be scary but a great first step to recovery.
Talking and listening is all it can take to get on track and support someone. Life can be busy, but making space and setting aside the time to have a coffee and a chat or go for a walk and a chat can make such a huge difference to a person who may be struggling.
One thing that I personally worried about was being a burden on people, I was reluctant to reach out for help to friends/family because I thought they were busy enough without me loading them down, obviously that was just the depression talking and they wanted to support me.
I used to see a counsellor and she would always say to me ‘Is that Sophie talking or the black dog?’. Splitting them into two gave me that reassurance that we are not our mental health issues, we may have depression or anxiety but it doesn’t define us, it’s just a bump in the road of our journey.
So I thought I would put some ‘Supporters Tips’ together, I hope they help:
Ask open questions to avoid just getting yes and no answers, it can be easy to hide behind a simple yes or no compared to a more open question.
Be patient, it isn’t something that will just go away after a couple of weeks/months it’s going to take time and not something can be rushed.
Don’t judge, it’s the fear of judgement that scares us the most, if we need more time in bed or can’t quite manage to wash our hair, it’s not laziness it’s just how we feel.
Listen, listening is quite a skill, it’s more than just conversation between two people. So talking over us or telling us what you think we need to hear isn’t helpful.
Don’t try and fix us, we aren’t broken, most important one, what may work for you or make you feel better may not work for us, everyone is different so pushing ideas can be the opposite of helpful, we know that you want to help us but it can’t be simply fixed.
Just be there, being there through the dark times shows us how much you care, it’s easy to be there in the good times, the darks time are scary for both of us but together it’s less of a mountain to climb.
Love & Hugs, it’s always nice to feel loved and it can take away the dark thoughts for a bit. And who doesn’t love a hug, human contact can lift our mood and make us feel wanted.
Sophie Collumbell is a regular writer for the Counsellors Café Magazine. In Sophie's words: "I don’t take life too seriously, always joking and making people laugh! Family and friends mean the world to me, and my little cat tiggs! Music is my life, I spend most time with my headphones on listening to anything and everything, I believe ‘When words fail music speaks’! I am more creative than anything, I love writing and knowing that hopefully, writing my struggles can help other people is just the best feeling ever! I cannot wait for the future so I can train to be a counsellor and hopefully help someone the way my counsellor has helped me!'