Speak up and encourage others to
One of the most difficult things about depression is how it warps your mental wellbeing and view of the world. The way you think is heavily clouded, but speaking to someone else can be like clearing the clouds away, even if just for a short time. By isolating yourself, you may struggle to shift your perspective and explore the thoughts troubling you in a constructive way.
When someone is disclosing something that makes them feel entirely vulnerable, make sure to be sensitive. There have been many people who have plucked up all the courage that they have to speak about their issues, only to be told that they are in their position because they are at fault in some way. Besides the fact that you may not know the whole situation, this is not constructive. We must begin to change the way we communicate with people in distress. Equally, remember to be kind to yourself! It is important to treat yourself with kindness and compassion.
Understand that each person’s experience is unique
For some people the worst thing you can say, when they open up about their mental wellbeing, is that you ‘know how they feel’. Consider for a moment that you really may not understand, and how frustrating it would feel for them to hear from everyone they speak to that they are understood. When speaking to someone in distress be willing to learn about their experience, ask them questions about how they feel and why, knowing that their experience is different to your own and anyone else’s.
Don’t compare their experience to the cousin who once had depression or the auntie who struggled with anxiety, or anyone else. Be there to learn about them and how you can help them. Something that may have helped that cousin or auntie may cause even more distress for them.
Try not to be offended
Those in distress may act in ways that are hurtful, but most of the time this is not their intention. It is their way of coping and can be caused by their clouded perspective. They may withdraw, ignore you, become easily irritable or even aggressive. Whilst for the sake of your own mental health you should not simply accept poor treatment, try to recognise the signs that something more concerning is happening and encourage them to seek professional help. This may be a real test of patience on your part, but the more empathetic and kinder you are, the more likely it is that the individual will feel better, or begin to open up about why they are acting in the ways they are.
Remember that getting worked up and angry may only reinforce their negative view of themselves and the world, and that their actions may be a subconscious attempt to prove themselves right. This is very common, and the individual may not understand that they are doing this.
Seek professional help and encourage others to
Understand that there is only so much that you can do as a listener and supporter. If someone’s state is not improving it is important that they seek professional help. The mind is very complicated, and often, there is a deeper significance behind our thoughts and poor coping mechanisms. As a loved one or friend you are not a therapist. Be aware of how someone else’s state affects your own mental health. It is possible for you to be traumatised by hearing a firsthand account of someone who has experienced trauma (this is called secondary trauma). It is also possible to slip into a depressive state if you are constantly exposed to negativity. Be sure to recognise when things are getting too much for you and encourage them to seek professional help.
We hope these suggestions will be useful in taking care of your own mental health and helping others.
All OptiMe users also have access to our counselling phone line for support. If you would like more information on this please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or request a demo of our workplace wellbeing platform