People living with major depressive and obsessive-compulsive disorder can first-hand know the struggle to form things better for me: how hard they fight, how they trip over their thoughts and intentions, and the way often they catch on wrong.
It can often get overwhelming to interact with someone who lives under a load of mental health conditions, even (or especially) when they’re near and dear to you. People usually try their best, but some ideas and behaviors are actively harmful, also once they are (or seem) well-intended.
1. Giving uninformed or unsolicited medical advice
Treatment is usually more complex than people realize. Therapy, medication, and self-care all have an area in recovery. And for a few people, that medication is often life-giving and even lifesaving.
We take medication to assist us in getting out of bed within the morning, empower us to form better decisions, and to be ready to enjoy our lives, our relationships.
But sometimes, that’s an excessive amount of to expect of somebody with a mental disorder, and it often just intensifies our real feelings of guilt and shame.
Healthy behaviors can certainly help us. But using language that pressures or insists it’ll cure the disorder isn’t going to have a positive impact every time. Instead, if you would like to be of help, ask what you can do for them. And be gentle together with your suggestions and encouragement.
2. Contributing to public discourse on suicide
All social media users (not only journalists) have a responsibility to think about what they’re adding to the mindset of the general public.
The World Health Organization website offers an inventory of dos and don’ts. Only rely on trusted sources when seeking information on suicide. The goal should be to attenuate harm.
For social media users, this might mean rewetting or sharing news stories that don’t follow these suggestions. Many people quickly click “share” without considering the impact.
The Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide also has a superb resource for this. Rather than using photos of grieving loved ones, for instance, they recommend employing a school or work photo, alongside a suicide hotline logo. Rather than using words like “epidemic,” we should always carefully study recent statistics and use proper terminology. Rather than using quotes from the police, we should always seek advice from suicide prevention experts.
When mentioning suicide on social media, try to be sensitive to those on the opposite side, who are receiving and trying to process our words. So, once you post, share, or comment, attempt to remember that those that are struggling may read your words, too.
3. An excessive amount of talk, not enough action
The whole idea of encouraging people to speak, to finish the stigma around discussing mental health conditions, do little if there isn’t a system in site for people with severe mental health conditions.
It leaves us counting on people, including general practitioners, who aren’t equipped to assist us or ready to prescribe necessary medications.
When encouraging people to open up, there must be someone on the opposite end who’s capable of listening and helping to secure timely, competent treatment. It shouldn’t fall on friends and family, as even the foremost compassionate layperson isn’t trained to assess these situations and react appropriately.
With only 41 percent of yank adults accessing mental health services for the disorders and 40 percent of Canadian adults during a similar boat, it’s clear there’s more work to be done. People with mental disorders need quite your awareness and your compassion. People with mental health conditions want real change and a system that doesn’t retraumatize them.
4. Telling us to ‘put things in perspective’
“It might be much worse!” or “Look at everything you have!” or “How could someone such as you be depressed?” etc.
Dwelling on someone else’s more severe and unfathomable pain doesn’t alleviate the pain of people with mental health conditions. Instead, it can encounter as invalidating. Having a robust appreciation for the positive elements of our lives doesn’t erase the pain they are going through; it doesn’t mean they are not allowed to require things to be better, both for themselves or others.
In-flight safety videos instruct you to secure your breathing device before helping anyone else (usually a child). Shockingly, this isn’t because flight attendants hate your children and need to show you up against them, too. It’s because you can’t help somebody else if you can’t help yourself. You’ve got to tend to your garden before exposure at a neighbor’s house with a digging tool.
It’s not that those people with mental health disorders aren’t generous, compassionate, and helpful. But they require special care of that in itself needs tons of energy.
A more straightforward approach could be to remind them that feelings come and go. There have been better times before, and there’ll be good times ahead. Behavioral scientist Nick Hobson refers this to the current” to the present as “pulling yourself out of the present,” meaning rather than trying to match our struggles with those of somebody else, we attempt to contrast how we feel now with how we’d feel within the future.
Practicing gratitude is often helpful. It positively affects our brains by releasing dopamine and serotonin, which is cool. However, bluntly telling us to be thankful for our situation isn’t cool, for an equivalent reason.
Instead, try reminding them of the positive contributions we make and, therefore, the people that love them. These affirmations won’t cure them, but they will contribute to positive self-regard, and gratitude might follow.
5. Not checking your performative empathy
Help can look at tons of various ways. It can be listening as they talk through it or just holding space for them and sitting in silence. It can be a hug, a nourishing meal, or watching a funny television program together.