Unless you have been living under a rock, you would have at minimum had somebody thoroughly dissect the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why in your lunch room. Having watched the series overall, I appreciated the rawness and non-censored way in which mental illness was portrayed. That being said, I am disillusioned and disappointed as to the follow up media articles flooding the internet regarding this series. From memes about suicide, pieces arguing why the suicide scene was too graphic to frantic keyboard warriors stunned that a teenager even had the audacity to make those tapes and point the finger at others for her death.
Instead of focusing on whether or not social media voiced an enjoyment of the story or hated the characters, there needs to be more than that. There needs to be a way for people to learn and increase prevention. Whether you agree or disagree with the story, the portrayal of suicide or the bloody soundtrack please have a read of this to be more active, to support anybody who you feel is or may be suffering and gain something other than a cramp from the hours of binge watching.
Life is hectic for everybody between work, family, a social life and maintaining that all important Instagram feed. It can be difficult to stay in touch with all of your nearest and dearest. There are always those days when somebody sends a messenger text at 8am and you forget to reply for a couple of days, no biggy. It only takes a few seconds to respond, even if it’s just an acknowledgement. For somebody who may be feeling down that message may be the only communication they attempt for that day. Try and be present, ring them when you are stuck on a smelly bus, or walking home. Save a little time from your day to reply instead of uploading a photo of your coffee cup .
Everybody deals with life events differently. A break up for some is a case of let’s get a vodka and a manicure, whereas for others this can mean being holed up in bed for three days drowning in isolation. Be aware of when those around you are going through a difficult time, check in with them, bribe them with a pizza date to get them out of the house. People may not show they are struggling, you don’t need to force conversation about this issue but if you are around and aware they may open up to you down the line, and even if they don’t they know they can.
If you have been in a situation where you suffered from any mental distress be open, as hard as this may be you could inadvertently help another who is in that place at that moment. This can limit the stigma faced by so many who feel they are the only ones in pain. Ease the burden, share a nod.
Sometimes when mental illness is discussed the topic can cause a gut feeling of uneasiness. One of the reasons for this is fear, fear of not saying the right thing, fear of the unknown and fear for the person who has disclosed how they are feeling to you. Be honest , nobody is expecting you to pull a psychology degree out of your arse, and in most cases a person may open up to you for exactly that reason. You are a friend, an important person in their life who doesn’t have to charge them a fee or type up case notes on them.
There are a vast amount of support services and funky websites which provide basic but vital info on a range of mental health issues. You don’t need to dive into the chemical reactions of meds in the brain to learn enough about an illness. A little bit of digging may help you to understand a person’s behaviour or what may be helpful for them .
Have a chuckle TOGETHER
Laughter can sometimes be a form of medicine. Whether this means reminiscing about the past or sharing your everyday lols with that person might be exactly what they need.
Letting somebody into your biggest battle is a tough gig, which can be made tougher if the person you confined in spills the convo into the group chat. Be mindful about discussing a person’s issues outside of what they have expressed is ok with them. However, if you have concerns they may harm themselves or others please seek appropriate support.
Having conversations around feelings can be a bit like walking on a tightrope, taking one step at a time and trying not to slip. If you feel that you are struggling yourself whilst trying to support somebody seek help, there is nothing weird or embarrassing by admitting that being a helper is a strain. You can’t be much help to another if you haven’t checked in with yourself.
Have realistic expectations
If somebody in your life is currently struggling be aware that the road to recovery will take place day by day. Usual daily activities such as going back to school or work or socialising may take a while to feel alright for that person to engage with it again. Be understanding and limit to pressure on them.
During a conversation you may encourage a friend to visit their G.P or speak to their boss about reducing hours etc. The key to being supportive is to do just that, support. Allow the person to make decisions about who they wish to talk too, offer to accompany if you wish but remember this is their life, their decision and you are there to hold their hand through it.
These are just some snippets on how you can assist those close to you as mental illness is a vast and complex issue. If you or somebody you know is struggling with mental illness first seek professional help, there are tons of organizations and online materials that can help.