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, 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.
“That really sucks“: Don’t minimize, don’t sugarcoat. Call a spade a spade. Depression sucks ass.
“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.
Offer hugs: There is 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 very, very unimpressed.
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?
The COVID-19/Mental Health Coping Toolkit page has a wide range of resources to support better mental health and wellbeing.