Suffering from depression is often an undeniably isolating experience. Reaching out to people for help, even cherished loved ones, can be challenging for a variety of reasons. Whether it be an insufficient support system, a desire to not feel like a burden, or the inability to articulate your feelings coherently to others, seeking help is more complicated than others would think. Because of this, it’s often easier to not reach out at all, leading to greater suffering and feelings of isolation.
From an outsider’s perspective, it can be difficult to watch your loved ones suffer in silence. No one enjoys feeling powerless, especially when it comes to not being able to help those close to you when they aren’t ready to let you in yet. While there’s no rushing the process, you should be familiar with the steps to take when you are finally reached out to. Just as your loved one mustered up the courage and energy to share this private aspect of their life, you too should aim to put it in a mutual effort to support them on their road to recovery. Below are a few guidelines you should feel free to implement moving forward to aid you in this process.
1) Determine What Exactly is Needed of You
First thing’s first: there is no ‘one size fits all’ response. Each person is unique, and therefore the support they will need will also be unique to them. When we are told of a problem, our first instinct might be to attempt to solve it. While offering potential solutions might be helpful to some, it isn’t the only way you can be there for a struggling individual.
Offering comforting words in some cases can be just as effective as providing advice. Or, simply being present in the moment and listening to what they have to say can also be appreciated. The best way to figure out which response you should provide your loved one with is to just ask. Mutual honesty and open communication will serve you both well.
2) Try not to Stray Away from the Matter at Hand
When discussing personal experiences, it can be easy to accidentally make the conversation all about you rather than your loved one. Sometimes we are inclined to share our own feelings as a way to show that we relate to what the other individual has shared with us. While this may be perceived as supportive, it could potentially also derail the conversation from the point at hand. Try to keep the focus on your loved one to ensure that they feel fully heard.
3) Be Okay with Setting Boundaries
We all have our own complex lives, and there are times in which we might not be able to fully support our loved ones for the sake of our mental health. This is completely understandable, and experiencing this burnout does not make you a bad friend. Ignoring your mental health in favor of others will only create unnecessary tension and stress.
Setting boundaries early on that outline what you are and are not able to handle will make these expectations clear and will help in serving both of your interests.
4) Know When to Involve Others
While protecting one’s privacy is of the utmost importance, keeping them safe should always be the ultimate goal. If they express thoughts or intentions to harm themselves or others, then you should immediately contact an adult so that preventative measures can be taken in the individual’s best interests. Though it may feel like a betrayal, it is an absolutely necessary step in protecting your loved one.
These guidelines may not be appropriate in every situation. Ultimately, the most effective way in being as supportive of a friend as possible is to communicate with your loved one so that you are both on the same page. For more information or assistance, visit the CDC’s resource page or communicate with a local mental health professional.
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