Having a conversation with someone close to you about depression isn’t easy. It’s not a fun or simple topic to approach, its difficult to know what to say to comfort them, and its hard to figure out what to do afterwards. But what’s the alternative… to ignore it and hope it gets better?
Why Ignorance Isn’t Bliss
Depression and suicide in young males is a modern, sometimes labelled as silent, epidemic. By continuing to avoid the subject on both a personal and public level, we only allow the issue to control more peoples’ lives and leave them without help. Depression is, at it’s core, lonely and isolating. Having just one person to speak to can make a huge difference to someone’s journey. But what can you, as a friend or family member or even acquaintance, say to someone who is suffering and how can you support them?
One of the most important things you can do is ask. It let’s the person know you care and drives the conversation in the right direction, showing them it’s a safe place to open up. If someone you know seems to have distanced themselves, doesn’t seem as social, has changed eating habits, is irritable, or is expressing they can’t sleep well, it might well be a sign they’re suffering from depression.
“You don’t seem yourself recently, is everything OK?”
An easy way to kick off the conversation is with something simple like “You don’t seem yourself recently, is everything OK?” If it is, no harm no fowl. If it isn’t, they might be incredibly relieved you’ve brought up the subject and are giving them the opportunity to talk.
2. Listen and Let Them Know You Care
It’s important to listen to their feelings and not accidentally be dismissive. You might struggle to understand what the’re going through or be at a loss for what to say. Don’t worry, just listen. It can help more than you may realize.
“Let them know you’re not in any rush and they can take their time”
If you’re stuck on what to say, try your best to respond sincerely. There’s no point telling them you understand if you don’t, and it can be harmful to dismiss their emotions by saying things like “Can’t you just try being happy?” Instead you should encourage them to open up more by asking questions (for example “How has this been affecting you”, “Do you remember when you first started feeling this way”, “How often do you feel like this?”) Let them know you’re not in any rush and they can take their time. You can also check out Beyond Blue, who have some great suggestions on how to approach this conversation.
No matter how much you care for someone, you can’t ‘fix’ or ‘cure’ their depression. It’s an illness and can often be a long journey ahead for both you and them. What you can do is point them in the direction of someone who can help. Try encouraging them to speak with their GP, or to make the most of the services available to them. It’s a good idea to attend the appointment with them (if they want you to) to show your support.
You can also offer to help them out with things they might be struggling with (such as cleaning, childcare, shopping etc.) and just generally arrange to spend time together doing things they enjoy. This might just be something as simple as going for a walk, getting food, or watching a movie together. Keep the line of communication open. Depression doesn’t have a quick solution, but your friendship can make a difference.
The Lions Barber Collectivee has made a commitment to removing the stigma associated with mental illness to encourage men to #manupandtalk. For more information about our projects and to get involved visit our website and like us on Facebook.