DISCLAIMER: This post talks about various mental health disorders, in both subject matter, and in name, so if you feel like this would upset you, or affect your mental health, please don’t feel obliged to read this. I am no health expert, so I am merely voicing my feelings on the matter.
Over the last couple of years, there has been a lot of talk surrounding mental health, and how far we have all come in regards to this. Whilst I have myself have suffered with anxiety disorder, and depression, I have since received the help I need, so I should simply forget about this, and get on with my life, right? It’s not a problem anymore for me, so when I go on Twitter rants, or repost articles highlighting the importance of people getting the help they need, why am I even bothering? I know for a fact that my voice on its own “doesn’t matter”, but I am constantly aware, and reading articles from organisations such as MIND, Time To Change, and Rethink Mental Health to gain better understanding, and meaning as to why mental health is such a big issue, and how to aid my own mental health.
When I hear the daunting statistics on TV, how for example; 1 in 4 of us suffer with a mental health disorder, and how according to mentalhealth.org, suicide is the leading cause of death among young people aged 20-34 years in the UK, how can I sit here and not voice myself. My family history is plagued with those who have been diagnosed with various disorders, such as addictions to substances, anxiety, bipolar, depression, and sociopathy. I’d say there are very few of us who haven’t at least gone through an episode of having one of these disorders. Luckily for yourselves, I’m not writing however, to preach to you about my family, as amazing as they are. I’m here to simply tell you that mental health, whether it is your own, or your friends- is a big deal.
“Well”, you say, “Of course it is a big deal, it’s me after all!” – and to that I say, what a lackluster response, but I also say, that when in a world where people are labelled with a disorder, and just being thrown prescriptions, or in a society where even in 2019- people are stigmatising anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders as those who are weak, or need to get a grip, this issue is so much bigger than we even realise. The two ridiculous, but often echoed descriptions are also completely incorrect, and I’m here to tell you why.
Within anybody’s lifetime, even yours, there is a story. A story with good events, bad events, and tragic events; these all shape your perception of everything. Your perceptions of life are the baseline of your moralities, of your opinions, and of how you also perceive other people’s lives. Now when we look at mental health in this instance, we will instantly compare our own views and experience on the subject to what stories you read online, or what struggles your friend is going through with this, and here we will judge them- because that’s what human do. We categorize people as weak, strong, admirable, and a disgrace based on their actions, and how they present themselves. We see somebody opening up to their OCD, and we automatically assume there is something wrong with them for instance- but what we fail to realise, is that their mental health is just encapsulating them, for that time. That person isn’t the OCD, that person isn’t their mental health. Nobody chooses to be depressed, nobody chooses to lose sleep, their jobs, their relationships because they wake up one day and say “oh well wouldn’t be great to have anorexia!” – there are so many different factors in somebody’s life that lands them in any situation, and it’s the same with mental health. There is a hell of a lot of strength to wake up in the morning, to get into the next day, and I especially think it’s admirable for someone who is struggling with their life, to even exist.
With this in mind, when somebody comes to you, and says they are struggling with depression, how would you typically respond? Many people would say “oh that’s awful, I hope you’re okay“, or “I know how you feel, I haven’t felt great either“- I know this because I see this on my Facebook feed, or I have opened up myself to people with my anxiety disorder with these same responses. There isn’t anything wrong with this, in the sense that at least you’re not telling them to sod off or anything, but what would be a huge improvement would be to inform yourself, reflect on your life, on your baseline, and think- how can I find out more about this? How can I not give this person who has just opened up to me a closed response? I believe there are several small pointers I would recommend: (although as I say in the disclaimer, I’m no expert, these are what have helped me support my friends, but these are also things I would want my friends to do if I went to them with my depression/anxiety issues)
- Read articles online, or watch YouTube videos on the matter. If you want to go really old school – read a book (oh god…)
- Don’t compare your situations with theirs. As I say, everyone has their own baselines, and their own experiences of life – what they might be going through could be something you’ve never personally experienced. It makes their anxieties about the situation feel minimised.
- Don’t shame them – I think this is pretty self explanatory.
- Listen. I mean, really listen to what they’re saying. If they need a hug afterwards, or a shoulder to lean on if they start crying, do it. You don’t even need to say anything, apart to offer reassurance during this exchange.
- Don’t offer them advice – I mean this the first thing we want to do when someone is suffering, however this can make someone feel inadequate, that “everyone else seems to have the solution- why don’t I?”. I’d say the best thing to say is “How can I help?”
- Keep contact. Not all the time, as this might come across as patronising, especially after someone has opened up to you about their mental health, but sending someone a silly meme, GIF, or a hello every so often, really helps.
So what’s my point in all of this? Why am I seamlessly rambling about all of this? If even one person reads this post, and takes something away from what I’ve said, if it gets healthy conversation going, or if it gets you to research what mental health disorders are out there, then this post has done its purpose.
If you are based in the UK such as myself, the NHS have a wide range of contacts for people who are suffering, as well as contacts for loved ones to gain more information, and advice: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/