I have depression.
If you didn’t know that yet, you know it now.
I’ve also have a rough couple of years filled with life changing moments that I’m still processing.
Losing a job, losing a loved one, getting a divorce, moving, and getting your heartbroken are things that don’t happen everyday, much less back to back.
It makes an impact.
I am also a mental health therapist.
I can diagnose people and provide therapy to them.
Right now I work with children.
I may not be the best at spouting off theories or strategic interventions.
I haven’t memorized all the influential pioneers of psychology.
I might not look like what you imagine a therapist would look like.
But as a person who not only works with people with mental health issues as a living and has her own mental health struggles, I think I know my shit well enough to share some pointers.
So here it is, how to be a better support to those suffering around you:
1.If someone opens up to you about feeling sad, your job is not to fix them. Your job is to simply listen. Validate. Comfort. Acknowledge. They did not tell you how they feel to hear you lecture them on how they should feel. NO ONE has the right to tell anyone how they should or should not feel. Everyone is different and experiences things differently. Your job is also not to distract. Feelings just are. They don’t need running away from. Also, do not give advice unless it’s asked for. Period.
2. It is not necessary that you understand why someone is feeling the way they do. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s confusing, silly, crazy, or ridiculous. It really doesn’t matter if you think they should be over it by now. Keep that shit to yourself. You just need to know that they are hurting. Let them talk. Let them cry. Just listen.
3. Don’t pretend like you completely understand what they are going through. Everyone is unique. Even people who experience the exact same thing take it in differently. Don’t start going on about your own experiences and make it about you. You can share about an experience that made you feel similarly to how they are feeling and what helped you out during that time. However, don’t assume that what works for you will work for them.
4. It’s okay to tell them you are worried about them. Even suggest they seek extra support or help. Especially if they are isolating, engaging in high risk behavior, and especially if they are having suicidal thoughts. What is not okay is to approach them like they are broken and unhealthy. Like you know what is best for them. That doesn’t do anything but add feelings of guilt and shame to someone who probably already has an abundance of it. It also makes them want to shut you out.
5. It’s okay to suggest something that might help cheer the person up. This is different from distraction. Distraction doesn’t let the person share their experience fully. Cheering someone up is allowing them time and space to express themselves and then afterwards, thinking of ways to help lighten the mood. Don’t take it personal if the person does not take you up on your offer or efforts. Just leave it open for them to approach you or take you up on the offer whenever they are ready. Periodically check in with them. Be available.
That’s all I got.
This is what works for me.
If you want to add your own 2 cents, please feel free to add it in comment section.