Today it’s going to be tough. It’s one of those socially-tabooed subjects: depression. One of those things no one talks about, it’s just much easier for everyone involved to bury their heads in the sand.
Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that depression affects many more people than only the sufferer. Life for friends and relatives of depressives is at least as difficult as it is for the sufferers themselves. You have your well-meant, optimistic, rational views, but depressives always know precisely why everything you suggest to them can only go wrong.
A dear friend of mine suffers from depression, as do I. I can see her struggles. I want to help. I’m in a position where I can more easily relate to her torment, but I still don’t know what to do. I can’t make sense of my own mind most of the time, let alone somebody else’s. Her friendship means a lot; she unknowingly helps me when I’m feeling low. I feel that I should know what to say. After all I know how I want others to view me. But being depressed also makes me aware that depressives can only see the negatives in every situation. It got me thinking…
I spoke out nearly nine months ago now, writing a blog post and adding a link to it on my Facebook page for all my friends to see. The support I received was overwhelming. I will be forever grateful. But in the nine months since, I haven’t really talked about living with depression. It’s not something I feel comfortable to randomly bring up, and so I have to wait to be asked, but no one does. I think that even though I have taken the first steps in speaking out, my friends still don’t know how to approach the issue. Some have said very little upon the subject, whilst others have just said very little altogether. I can’t blame them though, even in 2015, mental health remains a subject with a definite stigma, there’s a noticeable awkwardness in the conversation. Mental illness is still surrounded by prejudice, ignorance and fear. This needs to change. Writing this post is my way of addressing this problem, and underlining what both sides can do to help resolve the matter.
The one thing that someone suffering from depression needs most of all is support, so try not to give your friend any reason to doubt your relationship. If you set a date to meet up, go for a drink or watch a film, make sure you stick to it. Sorry for the harsh tone, but you have to be there 100% or not at all. You can’t sit on the fence, be happy to talk some of the time, when it suits you. It can’t be half-hearted. A depressive needs to know where relationships stand. Who they can rely on in a time of need.
Depression isn’t a weakness of character but an illness. An indiscriminate illness that afflicts people without regard to their status, success or strength, and regardless of whether these people have all the qualities and possessions that we might think are necessary for a happy life.
It’s natural for everybody to judge everybody else, but try not to make them feel condemned because they have depression. If a friend has told you that they’re depressed, they’re vulnerable. They want you to understand, but they don’t want your pity. I know that I just want people to accept me for who I am.
3 out of 4 young people fear the reaction of their friends when they talk about their mental health problems.
It is very important that you don’t give them the impression that you don’t have enough time to speak to them. However busy your own life might be, there’s always time to talk to a friend in need. If there’s not you probably need to reevaluate your values in life and make time.
Another good way to keep up a healthy relationship is to start up a conversation with them once in a while. It is very easy for depressives to get trapped inside their own heads, and become oblivious to the surrounding world. So don’t wait for them to text you. This shows that people do care about them, and that others are taking an active interest in their life, even if their distorted mind can’t quite grasp that at first.
Lastly, we (myself included) are all afraid of asking awkward questions when we know that there is a high risk that we will not like their answers, but it’s important that we do. You might live to regret it.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. Depressive illness cannot be cured overnight. It takes time, so perseverance is key for everybody involved. Drugs won’t cure someone from depression. You can’t become reliant on pills to live. Treatment has to be much more than that. Depression affects many more people than only the sufferer, so more people than only the sufferer need to respond. Families, friends, communities need to fight back with the sufferer. Only then can we defeat depression. Make sure you’re a part of it.
In silence we suffer.
Thank you for reading.