HOW TO SUPPORT SOMEONE WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS
It can be so easy to respond to your friend wrestling through depression with “I feel helpless” “I don’t know what to do” “I don’t know how to help” or maybe you just don’t respond at all, because it’s too hard, too scary and you are so unqualified to ‘counsel’ them through this.
I get that. It’s ok.
In a recent Q&A I asked some of my followers who have struggled with depression or anxiety to offer some of their thoughts and reflections on how to support a loved one dealing with an ‘invisible illness’.
This is what they had to say:
- “Spend time with them without necessarily trying to change them”
- “Stay in their life, your friendship means everything”
- “Make a plan… so many people said ‘I am here for you’ but nobody actually showed up… just say ‘Hey, I am free this afternoon could I swing by and take you for coffee?”
- “Invite me out for dinner, and when I decline invite yourself over”
- “Don’t pressure me to come out to one specific thing, but keep inviting me”
- “Little things speak volumes, buy me flowers, write me a card, grab a face mask and have a spa night with me”
- “Please don’t minimise my pain, and tell me to just toughen up”
- “Don’t wait for them to reach out, they probably feel like a burden”
- “We don’t always want to talk but we do want company”
- “Sometimes I’ve said I just want to be alone but I really just wanted to see who would stay”
- “Tell them they’re strong, that they’re going to be okay, and that this isn’t their fault”
- “Depression can’t always be prayed away, just like when someone breaks their bones – both need medical attention”
- “Don’t be afraid to ask them how they are doing, don’t just assume your presence helps, start by asking how they are doing.. it’s the simplest form of helping someone out”
- “Don’t disappear”
- “Encourage them to go out, they need to know they are sincerely wanted even if they aren’t able to be super energetic and happy”
The greatest displays of love and support I received while I was really struggling came from those who refused to let me do this alone, who made sure I had someone keeping me company, who frequently checked in and asked “what do you need” not what I wanted but what I needed, it came from those who were willing to meet me in my suffering, break bread and remind me that it was truly going to be ok.
Every person is unique, their healing journey is unique and their needs while battling with anxiety and depression may look completely different from the next person.
If anything, remember this – be patient and be kind, be the kind of person who stays.