I feel like this is a really difficult situation. When you witness a friend or family member going through a really difficult time, all you want is for them to be “fixed” and for them to be okay again.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no expert, I’m not always sure how to help family members or friends of my own when they’re battling mental health, sometimes I feel so helpless and it’s the worst feeling in the world.
However, from both a sufferer and witness point of view, I thought I’d write a few things that I myself have found have worked or helped.
The truth is, when somebody is having a hard time with their mental health, they don’t want you to fix them or offer solutions, in fact they don’t expect that. They just want to know that you’re there for them, every step of the way.
I would definitely recommend researching a bit into the specific illness that they currently have. Suffering from a mental illness is draining in itself yet having to explain what it is – and most of the time it’s impossible to find the correct words to.
Research for yourself, to enable you to support them in the best way possible and for you to understand a bit better. It’ll make you more sensitive to their needs and possible triggers, although this can also vary from person to person too.
Why research? It helps a hell of a lot because mental illness can make you feel abnormal and removed from those around you because of what’s going on. It helps to know that somebody understands, even if they can’t relate.
Whatever you do, please don’t take their words or actions personally. If they try to push you away it’s because THEY feel like a burden on you, and that’s the mental illness talking.
They’d rather not trouble you with whatever’s going on because they don’t want to burden you. Please be stubborn and reassure them that you aren’t going to be pushed away.
Of course, remind them that they are NOT a burden and they in fact DO make a difference to your life.
Unfortunately, feelings of wanting to die can arise. It’s easy for someone in a good state of mind to turn round and say “what a ridiculous thing to do, don’t you know how much that would hurt your family and friends?”. I get it, I really do. But look at it from their point of view.
These feelings are so real to them. Although it’s not done intentionally, please be careful of making them feel bad about dark thoughts that are because of the illness.
Please understand that simple tasks can be hard for people battling a mental illness, getting up in the morning is hard enough sometimes let alone going out or even meeting up for a coffee.
Don’t put pressure on them but DO tell them how much they positively affect your life, and the good things about them. Reassure them that this isn’t forever. They will reach the light at the end of the tunnel and that you will be there every step of the way, even when you can’t do anything to help.
Support is overlooked. A lot of the time, we can’t take away people’s pain or solve their problems, but we can be there. We can offer a shoulder to cry on, an ear to vent to, or a presence to keep them company.
Take care of yourself, your friends and your family.
Always check up on them, because you sadly never know.
Ciao for now x