I suffer from anxiety, seasonal depression and emetophobia. I feel mentally healthy about 20% of every week, though it may not seem that way. I don’t really feel like anyone takes me very seriously in it, and that’s one of many reasons I choose not to talk about it. But when I do, or anyone does, please think of these tips before trying to ‘help’ people who are suffering.
- don’t try and relate their problem back to your own. If I’m feeling anxious and you tell me that “you feel that sometimes” you are really just shitting on my feelings, telling me that my anxiety somehow equates to what you consider anxiety. If you really need to relate it back, ask me what exactly I feel when I’m anxious, and if you happen to feel the same way, then please, feel free -because shockingly, I don’t know that you feel like you’re going to puke, like you’re going insane, like your brain doesn’t work anymore, like there is a 40 pound weight on your chest, or like your heart is about explode all at once.
- don’t use ‘tough love.’ Don’t tell me “you have no reason to feel like this!”, or “your life is great, what could you be stressed/upset about?” I don’t want be told to think about something else and it’ll go away, because that’s not how it works. Making people feel guilty for feeling anxious or depressed or afraid generally makes all of the feelings worse, so please don’t.
- ask the person what they need!! it’s possible some people do need tough love, but I can’t say I know many who appreciate that. I usually, if anything, need someone to simply tell me that things are going to be okay. Everyone is different though, and you can’t make assumptions on what will help them, because you could end up making things worse.
- I don’t really think it’s possible to understand mental illness unless you deal with it, but try and do some research. Try and read people’s writing about their experiences, or learn what panic attacks or depression feel like. Then you can at least understand what questions you can ask the person, or understand some things they may be feeling. You can also be prepared with things that may help them, like suggesting you go to a gym class together, or play a board game.
- don’t have expectations. Don’t expect the person to suddenly feel better and be ready to do things with you. And don’t be upset if they can’t do things right away. Don’t be mad at a friend for bailing on plans one time, or not coming out of their room for a day if they are suffering from mental illness. Sometimes simple things feel impossible, and you have to be patient with them.
- these are personally just tips that I feel are necessary, everyone is different and so is everyone’s experience, so please feel free to contribute any other tips in the comments!