An often-overlooked area in terms of helping people with a mental illness such as Depression is the effect it can have on friends and family. Many times, friends and family want to help; however, they can be unsure how to or can be worried about saying the wrong thing. I have seen how my relapses have affected friends, family and ex-girlfriends as they have been unsure of what to do. Depression, Bipolar disorder, Anxiety and all firms of mental illness are not logical illnesses. Many people who appear to have it all such as sports stars and film stars can also have Depression. Below I have made a list of ways friends and family can help a loved one with a mental illness:
1. Treat your loved one the same way as everybody else. Just because somebody has a mental illness it doesn’t mean that they want to be treated differently.
2. Understand that each relapse is different. As previously stated mental illness is not a logical condition. A relapse could be triggered by something as simple as a word. People can be well meaning and ask the individual what has caused it, however the person fighting depression might not know what has caused their latest relapse.
3. Keep in regular contact. An individual living with mental illness sometimes feel lonely. They might have lots of friends both online and in real life, however they might not spend much time with them. As people settle down and start families their priorities change. Something as simple as a text message can really help somebody with a mental illness realise they are not alone.
4. Find a hobby you both enjoy. As stated above when people settle down and start a family their priorities change. This will reduce the amount of free time people have to see their friends. People who are living with a mental illness do understand this and are happy for their friends and family. If you both have an interest, then this can-do wonder for the mental health of both the individual with the condition and the friend/ family member.
5. Help them to set goals to work towards. This is a tremendous help for me. For as long as I can remember I have been goal driven. It doesn’t have to be anything too dramatic, just something an individual can achieve each day.
6. Talk to your loved one. This is the simplest way friends and family can help a loved one fighting mental illness. A person with mental illness might not get out much and may spend days without seeing or speaking to somebody. Keep in mind that when talking to an individual with mental illness it is important not to talk about their condition unless they bring it up. Ask them about their day, talk about your day and be as relaxed as you can.
These are just a small number of ways that friends and family can help a loved one with mental illness. Keep in mind that when supporting a loved one with mental illness it is important to look after your own mental health. If you’re not well, you won’t be able to help your loved one.