I've just sat and read all the posts on the Mental Help Week website. It's not easy reading, and it shouldn't be. That's why Geek Mental Help week is a great idea. We need to better understand those around us, and support them as much as we can.
I've led a very privileged life. Not only have I always been physically well, but my mind has been healthy too. Of course I've have colds, and their mental equivalents; some burnout, some crises of confidence. But I've seen mental illness; depression and other illnesses, and I know I'm fortunate I've not suffered to that degree.
But many people I care about have suffered with mental illness. It's really hard to be there for them in the right way, it's difficult to know what to do and say. These are the things I try my best to do, to be there for those I love. They may not work for everyone.
Supporting others is the least I can do.
*Really* listening is much harder than it sounds. When people want me there, I need to listen to them. I shouldn't try to solve any perceived problems for them. Just because I'm listening, it doesn't mean I should offer advice. I'm there to be quiet and open my ears.
Giving people space when they want it
Sometimes people just want to be alone. And that's an easy thing to do for someone else. I need to understand that when people want space, it's not that they don't want to be around me. It's just that they don't want to be around people right now.
Being company when they want it
Being there and being quiet is an underrated skill. When I sense a tense situation, it can be easy to try to fill the quiet with chatter. But being good company doesn't mean I need to be noisy company. Sometimes, my being there is a comfort, but any further interaction is unpleasant for them. I can be there, be close, and do my own thing, with little disruption to the other person.
Don't press too hard
It's worth asking if I can help, occasionally, just in case I can. But if the answer is that I can't help, I don't need to press further. No one has to answer to me.
I'm not a medical professional, so I should never tell anyone they should be medicated. The exception is if they've specifically asked me to nudge them about their medication. Don't tell them they should be taking X meds, or doing Y therapy. If they ask my opinion, be honest, but never offer “medical” advice without them asking outright.
It's not about me
It's easy to take it personally when someone else's health issues mean they act differently with me. But it's not about me. I need to put my own feelings to the side and try to be the best person I can be for those I care about.
Just be there
Don't abandon the people I care about. When it's hard to get in, it doesn't mean I should walk away. These are the times when people need me most. And need me to remember how much I care about them, and that it's always worth being there for them.