I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, mental illness was a very hush-hush topic. We didn’t speak about it. We didn’t learn about it. It just did not exist to us. There was just this unspoken rule that if a distant family member was struggling mentally, it’s probably some karma from what they had done in the past, and so was deserving.
This was unfortunately a very common Nigerian analogy. My mindset has changed so much from that time and I am forever grateful that I know all I know now about mental health.
This is because not only should you take care of your own mental health, but you should always look out for your friends and family that may be going through a lot of things.
Some people have seen others suffer from mental health challenges and so are used to it and can spot them from miles away. However, some people are not and may easily miss when a friend or family member starts to show signs of it, especially depression which I want to focus on.
These are ways you can tell if someone is in a depressive state. These are not all inclusive. And all of them don’t apply in all cases. Different people react differently. But if you are more sensitive to these things, you can tell when something may be wrong.
Feeling sad or tearful
Always pessimistic about life, even the small things.
Not interested in communicating or interacting with people.
Always wanting to be alone, on their own, in the dark or in secluded places.
Not caring about how they look, not putting effort into their dressing, appearance or even hygiene.
Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.
Not eating at all or eating too much as well.
Talking about death, emptiness, worthlessness, and suicide.
Here’s how you could help.
Listen to them
Let them know that you are there for them. Validate their feelings. Don’t talk them down. Encourage them to talk more by asking direct or more specific questions. Have many conversations with them. If you don’t live together, you can video call them often.
Assist them in finding support
Encourage them to seek professional help if it is getting worse. Help them to find the best fit for them. Our friends may know that they are going through something difficult, but they may be physically and mentally unable to seek help. We can go as far as booking an appointment for them and going there with them if they feel comfortable and up to it.
Help with continuous support
They may be willing to start therapy but there might be low days when they do not have the strength to. On those days is when they need encouragement to continue and understand that it is a process.
Take care of your own self
It can be draining to always put someone’s needs above yours. Remember to step back and see when you may need self-care. You can also set boundaries and share tasks with other friends and family members.
Mental health is important and catching a depressive or anxious state is very vital to help save a life in the future.