I recently wrote about how not to be supportive of someone with mental illness, and someone commented suggesting I do a post on how to be supportive. So here it is. This topic has been done many times before by many different people, so I doubt I’m coming up with anything particularly original, but here’s my two cents.
Validate, validate, and validate some more. When you think you’ve validated enough, keep on validating until you’re blue in the face. I need to hear that it’s okay to feel and experience what I’m feeling and experiencing. Even if it feels like it’s encouraging negativity, it’s not; it’s making space for what’s already there without any judgments. The world has far too many judgments, and no one needs more of those when it comes to their mental illness.
“That really sucks”
Don’t minimize, don’t sugarcoat. Call a spade a spade. Depression sucks ass. This is a simple form of validation that recognizes that someone is having a hard time.
“You don’t need to respond but I’ll keep messaging you unless you tell me to stop.”
When I get depressed, I isolate. I hide from the world, and I think everyone most likely hates me as much as I hate myself. If I’m feeling low, chances are I won’t respond to a message, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important for me to receive it. If it feels like someone gets that, it means a lot.
Okay, this one depends a lot on your relationship with the person. If it’s not close, best not to go in for the hug. But if it’s a relationship that has involved hugging in the past, there’s something soothing about physical contact, and it’s something I get very little of. The person may decline, but the gesture of offering still counts.
Recognize that 1:1 socializing is hard enough and anything more than that isn’t going to happen.
I remember a time someone sprung a group lunch on me when I was prepared for just the two of us. I was overwhelmed and very, very unimpressed. Social interaction can be very hard work, and pacing is important.
If you promise or suggest something, follow through.
If you suggest we should get together next week, I don’t necessarily have any interest in doing that. Still, if I then don’t hear another word from you about it, I may think you hate me. Ok maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.
What are some of the things you would like people to do when you’re not feeling well?