Approaching someone you care about.

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I think one of the toughest things to grasp is trying to figure out how to help someone you think may have depression. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately as I feel that someone very close to me has been struggling a lot lately. I have also been told by countless amounts of people of their own struggles with “confronting” a roommate, friend, or family member. The question I suppose is how do you go up to someone you care about and explain to them that they may have a form of mental illness?

It’s not an easy topic to bring up and many people would get extremely offended at the notion that you think they aren’t “normal” I’ve started to recognize the classic signs of depression particularly in regards to deep mood changes (irritability, sadness) and i’ve recognized that not all depression is biological. Particularly in our society and how its structured the environment is a heavy component to contributing to depression. Especially being at a top school and having to compete with some of the smartest people to move on to grad school or the work force, things get stressful. It’s not hard to find many students cramped in their rooms, studying and watching TV alone. Relaxation and time management need to be better emphasized to students, you need to get out, meet new people, and enjoy life once in awhile. However, it doesn’t always happen and some plunge into their own despair of feeling isolated and stressed out, placing more pressure on those around them to deal with their new personalities.Thus many people bring up the same question to me almost on a weekly basis: How does one find balance though in bringing up the topic?

My advice would probably revolve around my own experience with mental illness, I suppose in my own situation having someone I cared about calling me “crazy” was a tough pill to swallow and sent my in a spiral of my own despair trying to be and feel “normal”. It wasn’t until I internally recognized something wasn’t right that I reached out and asked for help in dealing with my illness. My advice would be to be there and listen, sometimes you don’t need to say anything at all, it’s your presence that matters. It’s not easy though, especially when it impacts your own ability to get on with your day but having your own support system to vent is essential too. Encouraging breaks, talking about their day, exercise, watch TV/ cook together, and proper sleeping techniques would be a good start but oftentimes its hard to encourage people to take part in those activities when they feel down, so take it slow. Importantly, you can also try to get educated on mental illness to better help someone you think may be going through it, as well as promote better mental health for yourself. It’s hard to understand something if you haven’t been able to experience it yourself, but it is a start in trying to make a change.

When they are ready to seek help, hopefully they will and you’ll be grateful to see them making a change for the better. It’s important to take the note that you shouldn’t force them to do something like talking to a therapist or going to the doctor (unless its an emergency), it would probably make them feel worse about their situation and about themselves.

Depression makes people do crazy things, don’t hold it against them or feel your at fault for what their going through. It’s not easy to live with someone battling untreated depression, but it is worth it to see them get help when they are ready 🙂

If anyone has their own experiences with a similar situation, please share how you dealt with it. I’d love to hear more from other people and hopefully we can all help people who are struggling trying to figure out how to help someone they care about.

– M