The best thing we can do to mark World Mental Health Day is to look after each other even more carefully. It's not easy to know what to say or do for someone who is experiencing a mental shit storm, but staying schtum and keeping our distance can leave folk feeling more isolated and crazy. After my second child I had crippling depression, anxiety and a stint at a MBU (Mother Baby Unit). Obviously, everyone is different but here are some suggestions to help you support someone who needs a friend.
Just be there
You don't need to offer up advice or conspicuously try and cheer your pal up Pointing out all the jolly marvellous things in their lives may well make them feel even worse as sufferers of depression frequently feel guilty or inadequate for not being able to 'see' the good stuff. Instead try and accept that this is shit for your friend. Look them in the eye, tell them that you are there for them and that you will get through this together.
There is nothing wrong with polishing off packets of biscuits and drinking all the wine, however good nutrition is an important part of recovery. I used to forget to eat ( very hard to believe these days). Bringing over good home cooked food or going out for a meal will help your friend feel better. Comfort food is comforting.
I am not suggesting that you plan a schedule of activities in the manner of Heidi Hi. However follow your friends lead, if she suggests going to the park, go. Other activities you may like to suggest include a feel good movie, a cuppa in a nice cafe or a rummage in a cool shop. Your friend may feel anxious about crowds or groups of people, therefore gentle activities that ease isolation are best.
Do nice things
A mental health nurse once told me that one way of reversing the cycle of depression is simply to do nice things. Therefore it may be helpful if you could do some of the boring chores that will enable your friend to do things that she/ he enjoyed before they felt so bad. Offer to take out the bins, do some laundry or tidy up. Jobs can seem very overwhelming to someone feeling unwell.
Nature and Exercise
Both of the above have been known to ease depression and anxiety but it can be difficult to get motivated and easier to stay home and feel sad. Breathe some fresh air together and suggest a walk or bike ride. Being outside and around nature can be very calming to a shouty mind.
You don't have to commit hours of time to supporting your friend. Short regular bursts of contact will make them feel supported and loved. Remember that you aren't their doctor or counsellor and point them in the right direction for professional help.
It's all gone a bit Dr. Phil here but mental health illnesses are horrible, stigmatising and debilitating. It's amazing how a small kind gesture can make a difference and I really feel that little cups of tea and outings with my girl gang helped me to recover.
I had better sign off now before I get too cheesy and start quoting the lyrics to Heal the World.
Poppy and Honesty are proud to be partners with Lobella Loves, a beautifully curated website that makes a donation to maternal mental health charities with every purchase made. Head on over to their pretty pages.