How To Help Your Loved Ones Deal With Mental Illness

Culture & Society

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Last week, I publicly thanked my friends for saving my life. Messages poured in from friends and fellow bloggers. While I loved seeing the response the post generated, the most interesting comment I got was a question from a friend. She wrote the following:

 

“What did (or didn’t) your friends say that made a difference to you when you felt that way? What advice can you give us for how to respond, or just be, with friends who are in a similar way?”

 

Depression can be a tricky subject. Not everyone wears their emotions on their sleeve, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help.

 

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Let Them Know That You’re There For Them

 

If you’re concerned about someone, or if you just want to say a quick hi, contact them. Text them. Call them. Sometimes a simple “Hi, how are you?” will be enough to save someone’s life.

You could say that it’s petty to care about little things like a text, but for some of us, the little things matter. They are proof that people care.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve held off on reaching out for help because I was afraid of judgment. I was afraid that my girlfriends wouldn’t be able to handle what I had to say.

A month ago, I got very close to hurting myself. I told a girlfriend about it the next day and broke down in her car. She made it clear that she was willing to listen to me, and she asked me to contact her if I ever felt that bad again.

 

There are no adequate words to describe how grateful I felt.

 

If a friend is suffering from depression, make it clear that you’re willing to listen. It means the world to those of us who are in a bad place to know that we have someone who’s willing to listen to us, someone who thinks that we’re worth something.

 

Just Listen

 

If you’re anything like me, sometimes it can be difficult to restrain yourself and refrain from interjecting an opinion into someone’s conversation. But there is a time and a place for everything. And when someone’s in the middle of pouring out his or her heart…well…you know where I’m going with this.

Sometimes we don’t want to hear other people’s opinions; we just want someone to lend an ear.

 

Do NOT (under ANY Circumstances) say, “Just get over it.”

 

I hate the word “just” in any sentence, but I particularly hate it when the next three words are “get over it.” Depression (or any mental illness is not something that you can “just get over.” It is a daily battle.

I can’t speak for everyone, but whenever I have heard those 4 words, it’s only made me feel more isolated. And it’s precisely because people have felt isolated, like no one cared that they’ve turned to suicide.

 

Just don’t say it. Please. There are better ways to respond.

 

Not Everyone Responds The Same Way

 

One of the best things to keep in mind is that people will respond to your advice in different ways. Tailor your advice depending on your friend’s history and personality.

 

The best way I can explain this is to use me as an example. My friends know that I have had an unimpressive track record with my attempts at therapy. They tend to offer me practical advice, like writing in a journal, or listening to music, things they know I will actually do instead of saying, “You should go into therapy.”

 

Some people respond well to things like, “Everything happens for a reason,” or “ The best is yet to come,” but I don’t. If you can’t tell, platitudes take the number 1 spot on my 10 Things I Hate The Most list (along with olives).

 

We’ve all heard about the power of words. When you have a loved one dealing with depression or any other mental illness, they become even more important. What you say can have a lasting effect on someone. I don’t care if the thing that bothers you was said a day ago or a decade ago.

 

We all respond to love, though. Just show us that we’re loved in the best way you know how.

 

What’s the most helpful thing someone has said to YOU when you hit rock bottom?

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