How To Support A Friend
This World Mental Health Day
(verb) - To bear all or part of the weight of; hold up
Mental health is not a linear experience, it is a human experience.
Like a meandering river with relentless ebbs and flows, for many, emotional health can feel unpredictable, disempowering and at times, ruthlessly engulfing. At its worst, poor mental health can feel like an isolating melancholia, free from the poetic and wistful beauty that it often accompanies within its artistic portrayals.
Perhaps there are no words profound enough to grasp the full weight of what it means to experience mental health problems. Just a uniting force that connects the many who have lived with it.
Oftentimes there is an emphasis on an ‘internal battle’ - an inner plight that we must face alone. But, with 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem of some kind within England every year, it feels counterintuitive that something felt so deeply, by so many, can feel so lonely.
In honour of World Mental Health Day 2020 we want to champion the narrative that there is comfort in connection. There is power in projecting our attention outwards and towards others. How can we be of support to our loved ones and provide a positive beacon of light, in their hazy moments of grey?
We may not always be there with them, but we can learn to be there for them, always.
World Mental Health Day’s roots flow back to 1992. An initiative carefully devised by the World Federation for Mental Health and with contacts in over 150 countries, every October 10th we are welcomed in our thousands to celebrate global mental health education, spread awareness and advocate against social stigma.
While the conversation around mental health is thriving with the progression of social media and the stigma slowly being eradicated as we grow with each generation, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it incredibly hard to detect changes within our friend’s moods, with physical contact still largely prohibited.
Subtle cues and shifts in energy are much harder to read through digital communication. Eye contact is replaced by screens and physical touch is replaced by distance. How can we be a supporting presence in someone’s life, regardless of physical presence?
It is easy to become caught up in our own lives, sometimes forgetting to check in on friends for weeks at a time. Engage! Do not wait for people to contact you, try to be present. Reinforce the idea that you are there when they need you.
Small Acts of Kindness
From a surprise call, gift or simply sharing a meme that lets your friend know you are thinking of them, a small gesture can nurture connection and provide a moment of unexpected light, in an otherwise dark day.
Not everybody is comfortable with emotional intimacy and that’s okay. Focussing your interactions on mutual topics of interest like film, sports or music, or creating joint plans for the future can provide a distracting respite from their internal clutter.
Lessen the Load
Depression in particular can impact day-to-day activities. Simply eating and cleaning can feel like a colossal challenge. Organising a weekly shop or cooking a few meals can take an incredible weight off of their shoulders.
Above all, the most important thing you can do is show empathy and understanding. Let’s root for each other. Especially on the days where positive outlooks are hard to find.
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Laura Coughlan - Oct 10th 2020
Article credit : Laura Coughlan - Ethical and Wellness write for Positive Outlook Clothing