Don’t be scared about being around someone who has a mental illness – it’s not contagious!
You can’t catch it by being kind to them.
You can’t catch it by spending time with them.
You can’t catch it by asking them what you can do to help.
You can’t catch it by talking to them.
In actual fact you can’t catch it at all.
That’s not to say that it is always easy living with someone who has a mental illness. It can be hard, confusing, scary and frustrating because you want them to be well and struggle to understand how you can help and support them.
Help is out there.
Help is there for people struggling with mental illness and help is also there for people trying to support someone who is suffering.
Getting help doesn’t mean that you’re weak or that you can’t cope – it just means that it’s OK to make it easier on yourself.
If you had to move a piano down a flight of steps would you try and do it on your own? Maybe you could, but wouldn’t it be easier with some friends to help – or even better some people who’s job it was to move pianos. Those people have the tools, skills and experience to do it in the easiest way.
So if you know someone who is suffering – either personally or because they are trying to support someone who is – be a friend. Lend a hand, or an ear, or even a shoulder to cry on. I know it can be difficult to know what to say or do, but just ask them if they’re ok and let them know that you’re there if they need to talk. You might be the only one who does and it can make a world of difference.
Did you know that statistically the biggest killer of men under 50 in the western world is suicide. Notice that I said men not people.
That’s because men are much more likely to commit suicide than women.
Do you know why? Because women talk more.
If you walk into work and see a woman colleague in tears, it’s pretty likely that at least one other woman will gather her up, take her off to the toilets and talk to her.
Now imagine it was a male colleague – what would happen then?
It should be the same, but it’s not.
Talking doesn’t make the problem go away, but somehow it makes it easier to deal with. You get support, caring, understanding and find a way through. When you try and do it all alone, you find that you can get into very destructive negative thinking patterns and have no one there to offer a different perspective. The downward spiral can be fast and horrific but it can be stopped – just by talking.
If people can’t talk to friends or family encourage them to talk to someone else. Maybe it’s a doctor or therapist, maybe it’s someone on a help line – hell, maybe it’s a bartender, but talking is always good.