Wednesday, 3 August 2016
Being A Friend To Someone With Mental Health Issues
I've lived with mental health issues the majority of my life. It started when I was as young as around 8 years old; I began suffering from depressive episodes and not long after that followed bouts of crippling anxiety. My mental health was a huge battle in my life but the support from family and friends was something that really helped me through it, however I know just how difficult, tiring and emotionally draining it is to stand by someone who has mental health issues and how tricky it can be knowing what to say or what to do.
As someone who's suffered with depression and anxiety for a long time and also been a friend to people with mental health conditions I've learnt a lot and thought it would be helpful to write a blog post about how to help someone with these issues and give some advice that'll hopefully be of use.
Don't Suffocate Them
When you care for someone and you see them in emotional pain you want to comfort them and be there for them but it's important not to go over the top as this could feel very suffocating. Depression and anxiety are already suffocating illnesses so being mollycoddled isn't always a helpful thing, no matter how loving your intentions are. Definitely make sure the person you're trying to help knows that you're always there for them and you support them but give them time to breathe and to be by themselves as having your own space can be very important during recovery and healing.
Make Sure They're Included
This is something I wish my friends did for me more and I can't stress how important it is. When someone's suffering from any form of mental health problem it's easy to assume they won't want to go out and do things, therefore you don't even bother asking but this will make your friend or family member feel left out, lonely, uncared for and unloved. By asking them if they'd like to join you you're letting them know you're thinking of them, that they're wanted and that you enjoy their company. Even if they don't feel up to leaving the house or seeing anyone I guarantee the fact you asked will mean the world to them, and remember to be understanding if they decline your invitation rather than making them feel guilty or rude for doing so.
It's a huge step if someone suffering with any form of mental health illness starts to talk about how they're feeling so if they do you should make sure you listen. Don't walk away, don't start browsing social media and make sure you give them you're full attention when they open up their heart to you. Talking is underrated and it can be the difference between recovery and remaining unwell so it's incredibly important you encourage talking, sharing and being open.
They've Done Nothing Wrong
It can be frustrating being friends with someone who suffers from mental health problems but try not to let that frustration show. Your friend or family member will probably already be feeling abnormal, guilty and bad for feeling this way but depression and anxiety are serious illnesses, they're not moods or abnormalities. They're going through so many emotions, feelings and hurt which is extremely difficult to deal with and can be overwhelming and certainly terrifying so never make them feel as if they're overreacting or being dramatic but reassure them that they'll get better and the feelings will pass.
Give Them Things To Look Forward To
Looking into the future can be a daunting thing if you suffer with mental health issues and it's hard to find things to look forward to, to get excited about and to see your life being enjoyable again. Try to give your friend things to look forward to, it could simply be a trip to the cinema or a shopping trip or perhaps talk long term plans like holidays you could go on together one day. Knowing there's going to be more to life than feeling low and that there's memories to be made can be super uplifting and it gives them something to hold on to.
You're Not The Problem
Depression and anxiety have a way of consuming someone and filling them with anger and hurt which is often released in bouts of rage, causes the sufferer to push people away and can cause the sufferer to say hurtful things to people who are trying to help them. This is all part of the illness, it's the illness taking over so as difficult as it might be, try to not take these things personally and keep in mind that you've done nothing wrong and you're not the problem.
Being a friend to someone with depression, anxiety or any form of mental health illness can be tiring, emotional, draining, difficult and frustrating but it's also the most kind, selfless, loving and amazing thing you can do.
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