I’ve been struggling with depression since I was fifteen and two years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I still have bad days or weeks, but I like to think I am coping pretty well. A large part of that is due to the support from my family, friends and boyfriend. Through them, I have learned some great ways to offer support to someone who is struggling.
1. Don’t offer advice unless asked for it. Just let them vent.
Sometimes all I am looking for is a sympathetic ear from someone who won’t judge me or make me feel stupid or bad about my emotions. Sometimes advice, though well-meaning, can feel as if someone is telling you that you are wrong or that your opinions on your own experiences shouldn’t be trusted. I often know what I need and just need some help finding it.
2. Don’t leave them alone (too often).
It’s hard to deal with someone who has depression. I get it! We can be boring and selfish and depressing! It might be hard for us to show we still love you. We might seem moody and irritable but giving us too much space can feel isolating.
3. Don’t give up!
When you are depressed or anxious, it can be hard enough to face the world. But when you have no one around, it’s impossible. As I said already, we might be difficult and the light at the end of the tunnel might be hard to see, but it takes time to find solutions that work. Please wait for us in the mean time.
4. Get them out of the house.
We might want to hide from the world, but trying to live a full life is one of the best ways to combat depression. Take us to a movie, for a walk or to a pottery class. We promise, we’ll be grateful! Having fun takes us outside of our heads and helps distract us from negative thoughts.
5. Engage in self-care
Make sure you take care of your own mental health too. Eat well, exercise and get enough sleep. Try to squeeze in some me time (while making sure your friend or family member has another person to support them in the meantime). This is so important, not only because we need you to be strong for us, but because we want you to feel good too.
Let me know how your friends and family have supported you in the comments below. Or let me know how you support someone with mental illness.