Lately, people have taken to social media to let out their trauma in search of support. Many times, a person makes this decision to share such intimate details of their life with the world because they don’t have a good support system–which doesn’t always mean they don’t have friends or family.
In the spirit of making the world a healthier place, here are five things you can do to support a friend/family member who is currently in a stressful psychological situation:
1) Validate their feelings: Persons who are experiencing a mental health crisis always tend to isolate themselves from others because they fear they will be misunderstood, judged or ridiculed for what they are feeling; and unfortunately, this does happen.
Validating a person’s feelings isn’t about agreeing or supporting whatever they feel i.e I feel worthless; but is about accepting the fact that THEY DO feel that way. Statements like ‘God forbid!’, ‘It is not your portion’ only help the person feel worse. Try statements like ‘it’s okay not to be okay’, ‘I get you’, ‘I love you no matter what’, ‘your feelings matter’.
2) Be Patient: If someone close to you is in a terrible mental space, you’ll have to be patient rather than pushy. Don’t push them to talk or answer numerous questions concerning what they’re feeling when they are not ready to do so.
By doing this, you’ll be making the situation more stressful for them. Try to, as much as possible go at their own pace. Make it clear that you are available for whatever it is that needs to be heard, in whatever way is most comfortable for them.
3) Encourage them: Usually, when people are struggling mentally all they want to do is just lay in bed to rest. While supporting what they need to get better, encourging them to have at least one daily goal e.g tidy my closet, can go a long way into diverting an intense depressive spiral.
4) Pay attention to non-verbal cues: don’t wait to be told everything before you act, be proactive by paying attention to what they might not be telling you. For instance, are there dark circles under their eyes? Do they pick distractedly at their food? Do they repeat certain actions like rubbing a particular spot on their body? Bring such things to their attention and try to get to the root of it together.
5) Do research: there’s a lot of specific information out there to help with whatever your loved one is dealing with, but you’ll never find it if you don’t look.
And while you’re at it, also pay attention to your own mental health.
Esohe Iyare, a DHI volunteer writes in from Lagos