Jodie McCarthy | 98five blogger
Today is R U OK? Day. While I have not been diagnosed with a mental health condition, I have close friends and family members who have.
It is so hard when our loved ones experience depression or anxiety. We want something tangible to help. So here are some things I do, to support those in my circle who are struggling.
Ask the question
I ask, “How are you doing?” Not as a greeting, but with real intent to understand my friend. I genuinely want to know the answer. I don’t switch off, or interrupt with my agenda, but listen.
Acknowledge how they feel
My friend doesn’t need me to cheer them up, saying “it’ll all be OK, just think positively”. She is an intelligent, capable woman. If she could get better simply by thinking positively, it would be a bad day, not depression.
My job is not to play doctor. My job is simply to say, “it sucks that you are feeling this way. What can I do to help?”
Keep the lines of communication open
Some days my friend is unable to answer, “How can I help?” Some days all she can say is, “I’m not OK”. There are often periods of silence as she struggles with her everyday.
When that happens I keep texting, calling and emailing. When my friend is unable to respond, she still needs to know I care.
Alternatively find a strategy that works between the two of you for the hard days. One friend sends a number out of 10 indicating how she’s doing.
Remind them they are loved
I send cards, flowers, gifts and texts, little reminders that she is loved.
Practical help is also important, not just for the person suffering but for their family too. So cook a meal or hang the washing. And don’t forget keeping company with someone who feels miserable, shows them that they are loved and valued.
As a person of faith, prayer is natural when I am worried about someone.
But importantly, it’s not a flippant, “I’ll pray for you”. Instead I ask, “what in particular would you like me to pray for?” I also include myself in those prayers. I pray for wisdom to help in the right way.
Learn about their diagnosis
It is important to be informed in order to genuinely understand what my friend is struggling with.
There are many different forms of depression. By researching the exact diagnosis I am better equipped to understand and offer appropriate help.
Finally, when my friend does feel like talking, I listen. I don’t try to fix her. I try to give advice only when it’s asked for. I’m not perfect in this, but I try.
Do you know someone who needs you to walk with them as they journey with a mental health diagnosis? Start by having the conversation and asking “how can I help?”
And if you need to talk to someone, here are some helplines or visit our Helpline page for more options.
Jodie is a full-time mum, part-time writer and some-time poet. She is fascinated by language, word origins, and meaning, and has always found comfort in writing. After a life as a professional woman, she is slowing adjusting to the joys and struggles of being a stay-at-home mum. Her blog is her slice of sanity in her life as mother. Jodie is passionate about encouraging women in their everyday, whether it’s mundane, challenging, painful or thrilling. She lives in Perth with her husband and two daughters. Follow Jodie on Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest