How to be a good friend to someone with depression or suicidal feelings

 

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Long time no see, my apologies. As you might have guessed from my last few posts I’ve been struggling with my mental health, it’s as though the life, hope and will to go on have just upped and left and so blogging has not really been a priority, as I’m sure you can appreciate. However, I did feel compelled to write about this topic, and I will take a glimmer of hope from that alone.

When someone you know is struggling with their mental health it can be difficult to know what to do to help them. As well as upsetting for you to see. Hopefully, this post can go some way to help. Because real friendship is about being there for one another during the bad times and not just the good.

Remember they don’t want to feel like that and it’s not their fault that they do

For many, people frequently being on a downer can be off putting or draining. However, if you know that person sufferers with their mental health or suspect that they do, remember that they don’t want to feel as they do. And they’re probably overly conscious that they are being unsociable or difficult to be around. Remember the person you know and love behind the struggle and that as hard as it is for you to see them like that it’s even harder for them to live like that. So remember that they are still that person, despite an illness telling them otherwise.

Saying “I’m here for you” is not enough

It’s common practice to say these words to someone you know is struggling, however, in some instances, it can often be said as a standard response rather than being genuine or truly meant. So if you are to utter these words, back them up and know that you’re going to need to show that you mean them. Your friend that’s suffering doesn’t want to be a burden or feel like they’re bringing others down. The fear of being rejected too can be crippling. Meaning they’re less likely to come to you when they actually feel like they really need help. Especially if they sense they’re just empty words. Qualify those words by actually being there for them and doing what you can for them. Even if you can’t be there in person there are plenty of ways you can keep in regular contact and be much valued. Also, avoid platitudes such as “chin up” and “don’t worry things could be worse.”

Actions speak louder than words

Again be prepared to back up any words of comfort with actions to show that you really do mean what you say and that you really are there for them. Call in on your friend rather than saying call in on me. No, your friend won’t be the best host or always feel like being social but keeping in regular contact and being there physically for them will let them know you’re truly there for them in such a time of need. Like I said, they’re probably struggling to even get out of bed at times or struggling to see past possible rejection so will not always be able to come to you when they need it but by you making the effort it will help them to feel more secure that they can turn to you when they are in desperate need and that you will be there for them. Offer to take them to appointments and other practical help such as picking up some shopping for them. Again if you can’t be there as much physically make the effort to keep in regular contact.

Patience

When you suffer from depression putting how you feel into words can be really difficult. Sometimes there are no words for just how empty you feel. So be prepared to not have detailed discussions outlining all their problems and then troubleshooting ideas of how to resolve them. It’s not always so practical. Also, remember that even though they might not accept invites to go out and not want to be social, please don’t stop asking them, no matter how many times they say no or they’re not up to it. Remember it’s the depression saying no, not them and they will appreciate the normality and being treated like an ordinary person. Know that you have to move at their pace and not get angry if they don’t seem to be making any progress.

Just listen

As I said above sometimes they will find it difficult to talk or open up, however when they do the most important thing that you can do is simply to listen. You don’t need to have all the answers or know exactly what to say. Being there and really listening is enough. You don’t need to offer an opinion. Just let them get all those thoughts that are eating away at them out in the open.

Check in on them often

It takes no time at all and not much out of your day to reel off a quick text to say “how are you doing today?” or “just checking to see how you’re doing.” But that one text can make a big impact on someone’s day. It could be exactly what they need in that moment. Especially when they feel incredibly alone and like the biggest burden.

Don’t ignore them

If someone has built up the courage to tell you how they’re feeling or tell you that they’re struggling, acknowledge that it’s a big thing that they’re doing turning to you when they feel like that. Also, see it as a testament to your friendship that they feel they can turn to you in a time of real need. It’s also likely that they’re turning to you at a point when they’re desperate. They see you as someone they can be open with and that to them is massive. No, you won’t always know what to say but ignoring them or leaving them on blue ticks on WhatsApp at that time will only make them feel worse. Especially if they’ve just messaged to say they’re struggling.

Educate yourself

Unless you have personal experience of suffering from a mental health condition do some research about different mental health conditions and what help is available, especially in your area. You can find information on the NHS website. There is also more specific information on helping a friend or family member on the following links.

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/seeking-help-for-a-mental-health-problem/supporting-someone-else/?o=24607#emotional

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/mental-health-and-stigma 

Most importantly always act with kindness and compassion and remember their humanity. Mental illness is something that can affect anyone at any time and shouldn’t be something to be ashamed about. Having a great friend or family in your corner can make all the difference. It might even help to save a life.

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4 thoughts on “How to be a good friend to someone with depression or suicidal feelings

  1. This is a brilliant post Siân. So well written and full of important information that people need to appreciate. Thank you for writing it. I particularly like your first point about remembering that no one wants to feel that way. Sending gentle hugs your way xx

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  2. This is such a good post. as someone who suffers with depression I know all too well just how difficult it can be. I particularly agree on the one about patience. Sometimes you just need someone to sit and listen, without judgement and with no pressure. Sometimes you won’t even want to talk, you just need some to be physically present. This will be soooo helpful for people! x

    whatevawears.co.uk

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