Just two days after my A-level results day last year, I recevied a phone call that tipped my entire world upside down and inside out with just two words… ‘She’s gone’. Losing a best friend to suicide is the hardest thing I have had to deal with in my nineteen years of life. A year later, I can’t help but wonder…if I had known how to support her, would things have been different?
Mental illness is something that not only affects the individual sufferer, but has a great impact on surrounding family and friends. It can be extremely difficult to see someone we love and care for become unwell. As mental health is being spoken about more and more, the resources available to society about what to do, and the support you can receive if you yourself are suffering with a mental illness is overwhelming. But what about if you would like to support someone else – what do you do then?
Here are some suggestions from mental health charity, Mind;
- Show your support. Just asking how somebody is doing can have an impact greater than you can imagine. Many individuals feel alone and a simple ‘how are you?’ shows them you’re there if they want to talk. They may not want to, but showing you care is important. It’ll also help you to understand more about what they’re going through.
- Don’t be afraid to ask how you can help. Whether you take them bowling to take their mind off of things, or drive them to appointments, or help manage medication, everyone needs support at some points and quite often the little things make a huge difference. Even just asking the question shows your support.
- Be open minded. If only it were as simple as ‘cheer up’ or ‘pull yourself together’. Try not to be judgemental and just listen to how they feel. Each person is different and the support networks that work for them, may not work for others.
- Show respect and trust. It can be a big step for someone with a mental illness to open up to you. Don’t betray their trust by talking about private things to people unnecessarily or not respecting their feelings. Let them confide in you, knowing that you’re on their side.
- Look after yourself. There is no shame in you yourself admiting to struggling to cope. It can be stressful and upsetting and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed by it all. Counselling services will always be willing to talk to friends and family too to provide them with the appropriate support. Know your boundaries and share the problem with others, you don’t need to take on the responsibility alone.
Mental illness is HARD, but none of us are alone in it. Whether we are suffering ourselves, or want to support those around us, there is so much advice and support available if we just know where to look. This list from Mind is not exclusive, and what works for some may not for others. Each individual is different.
Look after yourselves and others, and let us make it our aim as a University, and a community, to support one another.
Lucy Clarke, Stage 2