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How to be friends with a depressed person

08 Aug 2017

Is your mind a part of your body? Yes, however coming from my South Asian background has made me question this. People are encouraged to whisper their suffering and cry silently. Mental illness is often surrounded by shame in the Asian community. The older generations are less educated about the concept, so they’re less familiar with it, and tend to associate such conditions with madness or insanity. But if all the other organs in your body can get sick, why is it so hard to understand that the brain can too?

Maybe it’s because society views it as a weakness. They might believe that the person’s family name is tarnished because of it. As a result, many Asians might be reluctant to accept help in order to preserve the family reputation, or because they fear judgement. Silence is embedded amongst Asians but this silence needs to be overcome. Attitudes need to change so that people are more willing to talk about it and accept help.

Depression is like being unable to swim amongst a sea of sorrow. Anxiety is depression’s friend, helping to weigh you down on your chest until you feel like you’re drowning, struggling to breathe, and spiralling down into darkness. Not only does the person suffering from the mental illness become distant from their own self, but they may also become distant from their partner, friends, and family.

“They can deem themselves unworthy of your love which makes them push you away”

When a person is depressed, they lose sight of their worth. They can deem themselves unworthy of your love which makes them push you away. But they don’t want to be alone. If we go back to the metaphor about how depression feels like you’re drowning and suffocating, then obviously you’d want someone to jump into the sea and save you.

But the thing is, depression sets up negative barriers. So, by the time your willingness to help has reached the person, they’ve already convinced themselves that they can’t be helped. They may feel that they’re a burden which is one of the biggest reasons why they find it difficult to talk about anything. They might even become irritable with you, or simply shut you out.

It’s understandable for you to feel helpless and start thinking that you’re a bad friend or a bad partner. That’s not the truth though. The person you are trying to help appreciates you a lot more than they might show. Depression distorts and destroys, leaving the person feeling empty; like they don’t have anything to give their friend or their partner, and thus that they don’t deserve anything back.

“Make sure to remind them of the beauty of life, even if just the little things”

The best thing to do if you know someone with depression is to be patient. As their friend or partner, you should know what they love, so spend time with them doing these things. They don’t want you to “fix” them and they may feel you won’t understand, so don’t force them to talk about it. But, do let them know that you are there to listen. With regards to anxiety, observe what triggers it and help them to stay away from the triggers. Make sure to remind them of the beauty of life, even if just the little things.

Don’t forget that your mental health is also a priority. In trying to help them, you need to protect your mind too so if it’s affecting your mental health negatively, you may have to take a break or let go of the friendship or the relationship.

If you’re reading this and you are the person who is suffering from a mental illness, I want you to know that it’s smaller than you. It may feel like it is massive and overpowering but it can’t even exist without you. You can exist without it though. Try and realise your worth and that you deserve to be cared for. Whether the care comes from yourself or from someone else, you deserve to be cared for. Remember to breathe and remember that you are not a burden.