I’m doing something a little special today – A guest post from a fellow blogger, Ella. Thank you for sharing! 🙂
As someone who has suffered with anxiety and depression for many years, I am not oblivious to the fact that it can be very hard to get your head around. It is hard enough to get a grip of what it means when it affects you personally, let alone for someone who has never personally experienced mental illness.
I wanted to suggest 5 tips for friends, and families to ensure they’re there when their loved ones need them. (Please bear in mind that everyone is different so some of these may need to be taken with a pinch of salt and rather trust your better judgements on the individual).
1) Don’t presume they will come to you when they need to talk. Based off my personal experiences, and those of people around me, just hoping that someone with anxiety will ring you when they feel nervous, or someone with depression will knock on your door when you’re low, is not the best course of action. It is often hard for people to speak up when they’re suffering and so it’s likely that you need to be the one initiating conversation.
2) Linking to this, don’t worry that initiating the conversation has to be one on the topic of their mental illness. This is often a subject they will discuss when they’re ready, rather than it being coaxed out of them (although this is a point that may differ from person to person, dependent on whether they’ve been formally diagnosed, for example). Sometimes a conversation about cheesy reality TV shows or asking them to watch a film with you is enough to brighten the situation. A distraction from the situation is sometimes better than discussing it.
3) Read. I mean really read. Read people’s experiences on blogs, read doctor’s notes on symptoms, read ways to help handle panic attacks. Basically… Read anything that you can on the topic if you’re not sure on what their illness entails. I was diagnosed with Atypical Depression this year, and it has several symptoms that people aren’t always aware comes under the hood of depression. Having read up on it means that you don’t question why someone may appear to be happy one day and sad the next.
4) Don’t force someone with anxiety, for example, in to a situation to try and help them recover. Unfortunately, you cannot be the one to ‘change’ and ‘cure’ someone; let them be their own hero. I used to really struggle with asking for another size in a shoe shop. Sadly, I was once forced in to the situation and all that happened was that I started crying in a crowded public place – not cool. Similarly, your advice may not be best placed if you haven’t read up (and even then, you won’t always understand).
5) Finally, don’t try to understand. I can almost guarantee you that they don’t understand what is happening inside their head, let alone yourself. Just being there is enough. Similar to point 2, compassion is all that matters. Give them a hug when it looks like they need one; give them space when they want to be alone. Just follow their queues for how to act and try to be around to talk whenever they may need to open up. If you follow this point in particular (and I know it can be hard work) the person in question won’t ever forget you did that for them, I can assure you that.
I hope that these 5 tips helped give a better idea about how to be a great friend or family member to those around you who suffer with a mental illness. These 5 tips are only a snapshot of the things you should and shouldn’t do but if you’re ever unsure and need to seek advice, check out mind.org.uk and other organisations where you can seek support.
Ella blogs at Testarossa. I’ve also done a guest post on her blog today too about my experience of mental health whilst studying for a degree, a few tips & lessons learned. Fab blog – check her out!