Finding out a friend or family member is suffering with a mental health problem can be a tough situation. Especially if you've had no prior experience dealing with this.
Here are some tips that can help you handle the situation.
Acceptance. Usually when a person is suffering with a mental health problem they have felt very alone for some time. It is a big step for them to accept that they need support and to then open up to someone about it. This can be a tough moment for you because you may be quite surprised or may not want to accept what you are hearing. Often this conversation can lead to your loved one feeling unheard or more alone than before if what they are saying is dismissed. When your loved one approaches you, it is important that you listen to them, acknowledge them and accept them.
Holding a safe space. It is important that your loved one feels that they can open up to you about their feelings in a safe space with compassion and non judgement. Most likely, your loved one wants to seek professional help so that they can overcome what is creating their Depression, however, also holds allot of fear around taking this step. It is important to support them by listening to their needs, making helpful suggestions and being patient with them rather than forcing certain things on them that they may not yet be ready for.
Empowering them. Depression is not a disease, it is the symptom of feeling at dis-ease due to one or a number of unpleasant, unresolved issues. What I’m saying here is your loved one is still the same person you have always known so there is no need to treat them differently like they have a disease, however, you may just want to be a little more mindful during certain conversations. Showing them they are still the same person will keep them empowered to get through this tough time as will acknowledging and recognising their achievements along their road to recovery.
Another way you can empower your loved one on their road to recovery is to find and share stories of other people who have been able to overcome the same/similar situations. This can be particularly beneficial when your loved one feels like giving up and you are not quite sure how else to help. I find Ted Talks can be a great place to start.
Take care of YOU. Dealing with a loved one suffering with a mental health problem can take a toll on you mentally, emotionally and physically. There may be times when your loved one chooses to blame you for his/her problems and even times when you choose to blame yourself. It is important to separate the Depression from the person and understand that those words are coming from the Depression and not your loved one. Although it is important to support your loved one it is also important that you don’t forget to support yourself in the process.
Make sure you surround yourself with other compassionate people that you can open up to and seek your own support from. Ensure you are still taking the time to live your life and do the things that fulfil you and most importantly remember YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONE WILL GET THROUGH THIS!
Written by: Chanel de King, Healer and Therapist at The Melbourne Centre of Healing.
Specialising in Addiction Rehabilitation and Mental Health Programs in Melbourne.