After chatting with a friend of mine today who has been going through a difficult period in her life, I realize what a difference a little time and effort can make to others.
I have a number of friends who have suffered from anxiety, severe stress and/or depression as well as other mental health problems, and though there is now a lot less stigma surrounding these illnesses, they are still not often talked about. It is hard to explain to others why you feel so ill and why you don’t seem to be capable of doing the everyday things that others take for granted when you appear to look fine on the surface. And that is where the problem starts, people associate illness with physicality, therefore when you are unable to see something it must not be real, seeing is believing after all, isn’t it? This leads people not to speak up about how they are feeling as they are made to feel weak. When they do confide in others it is often trivialized or dismissed with advice being given such as ‘Pull yourself together’ or ‘You just have to get on with it’ these are some of the most difficult things a person suffering with a mental illness can be told. If it was that simple, they would have done that, instead they now feel as if they are not a strong person, they are being useless and pathetic as other people can apparently cope where they are not able to. That only makes the depression worse, creating a vicious cycle.
Instead I would like to tell those of you suffering with depression or any other form of mental health problem, that you are a strong person. Some mental illnesses stem from trying to be strong for too long without support from others. Nobody except you can know what it is like to live your life, nobody else can ever understand the way things have hurt you or why you are struggling. Sometimes, I know that you don’t even understand the reasons why you feel this way yourself. Please understand that you have an illness as real as any other illness, you are not weak, not useless and you are not pathetic. With a little help and support you can get better.
So please if someone you know suffers with a mental health problem, take a little time out of your day for them. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Sit with them quietly if they don’t want to talk. Don’t offer advice on how they should fix their problems. If they do want to talk, just listen and acknowledge how they feel. Send a card to let them know that you are thinking of them. A small gesture can really make a big difference.