Image provided by Giphy
Growing up, for me personally, finding help after I was diagnosed with depression was the hardest part of my condition.
Most think suffering in silence is the hardest part, in which I have read other’s articles online and have had conversations with others to which it was, but for me that was the easy part. I had got so used to covering it up, it came natural for me over time. I just wouldn’t talk about it and when I was having really, really bad days I just would avoid people….until this started to affect not my pursuit for a higher education but also my work ethic as well.
I have to fault myself as well for the lack of help for my problem. Due to me isolating myself a lot during those times, the help I needed could not find me. What this means is, I was putting up such a great front, that when I actually did come across things that could help me, they just passed me by or didn’t take me serious because I didn’t look like I was depressed. Even to this day, there are people around me who still don’t take my diagnosis serious enough, or they still don’t believe there is a problem underneath this huge smile of mine because I don’t portray that stereotypical image of a severely sad person.
With those stereotypes plus my isolation and neglect of my own condition, I became lost when it came to getting the right and most positive help for my depression. Overtime I began to learn what bad help was and what good help was.
Lets take a look below at some good ways I have found that have helped me with my depression from others:
- It’s not all in your head – The most common response I have received when dealing with my depression is that “it’s all in your head.” Depression, clinically diagnosed depression, is not just some made up activity that your brain has decided it wants you to feel out of the blue. This is not some fairy tale or imaginary thing. Depression is real and it kills more often than your average car accidents right now. By telling someone who is suffering from the mental health condition that this is all made up and imaginary, you are now dismissing their problem. Be more empathic and open to what their issue is. Listen to them and then respond. Never dismiss someone suffering from a mental illness.
- Faith without work is dead – You can not pray a mental illness away. I know, I know. We were all, including myself, taught that if you pray hard enough things will get better in their own time but that’s not the case with a health condition. For example, lets take a glimpse at a physical health condition like a sexually transmitted disease for a second. If you have one, you can pray all day long for it go away. You can go to church and pray the best prayer that you could possibly ever think of. You can even get your preacher to pray not only with you but for you on his own time. This still won’t make that disease go away. Ultimately by just sticking with prayer and not consulting an actual doctor, the disease has now spread into a bigger disease like cancer and now you’re left with an even bigger problem…..but you did pray hard about it. You see where I’m going here? No amount of prayer has made that physical disease go away without the appropriate medication needed to treat the disease itself. You have now depended on your faith so much that any work that could’ve been done to treat your condition early on you’re no longer able to. No, this does not mean you shouldn’t pray at all in life, but if you don’t get up and physically fix your problems, they will grow and they will build up on you until it is too late for you to physically do anything about them. Instead of constantly just telling someone dealing with a mental illness to pray all the time, find and research some additional resources to go along with those prayers for them as well.
- Google is free – Research. If you don’t know what depression is or how you can help just simply google it. I don’t think I have ever had a friend that I know of, go out of their way to research my condition after I told them about it. I always got either dismissed and literally forgotten about when it came to this subject. Probably not purposely but you know it still hurt to not receive that support. By taking the time to learn more about the condition, you’ll know what to do and what not to do to help. This also shows that you actually care about that person and actually want to help the best you can.
- Stop listening just to respond – Typically and unfortunately, most people only listen to respond. Meaning they don’t listen to the words you’re saying, they are listening long enough to hurry up and respond in order to move on with their lives. When dealing with someone with a mental illness, you have to have enough patience to take the time to sit down and actually talk to them. Like really talk to them. See what their childhood was like or what they’ve been through in life and try to put the pieces together of their puzzle to see if you can pin point where things took a turn for the worst. Most of the time people like myself who suffer from depression don’t even know what the root of their problem is until someone actually takes the time to sit down and simply talk. Once we are asked to break things down with outside party, then that’s when we learn and have realizations of what needs to be done or not done. This is exactly what a counselors job is but if they can’t afford a counselor, this is how you can help counsel them instead as an alternative and as a friend. Or you can try to not analyze their situation at hand, and just be a listening ear if you don’t know what to say. I can almost guarantee 100% if I had have had that one person around me who could just listen to me, not speaking and putting their input, but just to sit and listen to what was going on with me, I wouldn’t have been so isolated throughout the beginning of my journey of living with depression. Every single person I talked to about my condition, even the doctor, just listened to respond and moved on with their life. They did not care about what I was speaking about and automatically assumed they couldn’t do anything to help me when I really wasn’t looking for them to do anything, just to listen.
- They’re not crazy – People who suffer from depression are not crazy. 9 times out of 10 they are, in fact, ten times smarter than you, they’re just sad all the time due to traumatic experiences in life. Labeling has been a big problem in the African American community when it comes to mental health awareness. I’ve noticed most of this labeling being done by not our fellow millennial peers as you would assume, but by our own parents and other adults who are apart of the older generations ahead of us 90’s/2000s babies. Most of us won’t come forward and tend to opt towards isolation more like I did because it makes us feel even worse when we are labeled. That tough love and criticism does not make a depressed person stronger. It hurts more than anything. That tough love is the driving car towards isolation land. The labels don’t help anyone, not even the person labeling us. It makes you a jerk for one, naive because you’re not wanting to be more knowledgeable on what’s going on with the people around you, and it makes those who are going through something not want to associate with you because you’re not empathic towards a major problem going on with the person you care about. Me personally, I completely cut off every single person who labeled me as crazy when I actually became more open, let my guard down and trusted them enough to ask for help. I didn’t care that they didn’t understand what I was going through because they didn’t care enough to sit down and listen to what I had to say and then turned around and labeled me to others with no knowledge of my condition period. I, and you also if you’re going through this, don’t need that type of energy around you while dealing with a mental illness. They are the problem. No amounts of popularity, money or material things makes them better than you overall and you don’t have to put up with people coming around making you feel bad about a condition you can’t even control and didn’t ask to have. Calling a person dealing with a mental illness crazy because you lack knowledge on their condition is like calling a physically disabled person ugly and funny looking just because they were born different physically from you.
- Isolation is the devil’s playground – If you know someone who has a mental illness do not run away from them. In fact, do the complete opposite and run towards them. For me, I didn’t want to be around people when things were really bad because I was scared of people when it comes down to it. I was scared that they would not be sincere towards my condition and that I would be labeled more than I had already been in the past so I stayed away. But this didn’t help. It made things worse. This is that stage of depression that drives people to do bad things like committing murders and committing suicides. You get so far into your own head that you end up playing out a bunch of different scenarios you think would help the problem. Then you start to hear that little voice in your head but it’s not the normal voice that you often hear of yourself giving yourself advice on life. This is a more darker voice, a different tone, just a different person. That is the devil talking to you literally trying to convince you to take things into your hands. In order to keep this devil away from those you may know going through this problem, you have to stay in their lives. This is where you have to pray for them because they are not mentally capable of doing so for themselves at that moment. You have to place distractions for those who are dealing with depression so they won’t think too much or at all. For example, instead of just stopping by your friend’s house that you know is having a hard time with their depression just to chill in the house and watch television, try setting up some fun activities outside of the house. That house is their isolation so get them out and about as much as possible and around other people having fun. Laughter and smiling is contagious, and it could be the medicine needed for someone suffering from depression to bounce back fully.
- Avoid law enforcement – I know law enforcement, also known as the police, are supposed to be there to help in a time of need, but lately this has not been the case for those suffering with mental illnesses. After many, many reports of law enforcement shooting and killing those who are having mental episodes, I personally would not advise you to call the police on someone having a mental health episode, but there is a thin line between a mental health episode and someone being of harm to not only themselves but others around them. With more research you can learn the difference between the two. Instead of calling the police, try getting in touch with a close family member, someone that person trusts in their time of need to come and de-escalate the situation. If that doesn’t work and you’re forced to call an outside party in for help, try asking the 9-1-1 dispatcher to just send an ambulance and let them know what’s going on is a medical emergency and not a safety emergency instead. I feel like law enforcement is there for violent offenders. You know those who think it’s fun to commit crimes. I feel like ambulance people are more of the medical field and will know what to do in those situations to better de-escalate the situation without deadly force. Even a taser can kill someone who is heavily medicated for a mental illness when it comes to the police, and we already know what guns can do. With someone who is in an ambulance they’ll not only know more about what to do medically but they can also get you in touch with the right people to help that person medically.
- They are not weak – The most frustrating part about living with depression and feeling like you’re weak. You’re not weak. In fact, you are stronger than the average human being whether you realize it or not. It takes a very strong person to put on a front like everything is great and keep things positive at all times when they are extremely sad overall. If you know someone with depression and want to help, always remind them that they are strong and they are bigger than their problems. Never tell a person that is suffering from depression that they are now weak.
Depression is something that can be cured. Depression is something can be cured without medication if you get a hold of it early just like a physical condition. But depression can’t go away with just the help of the person suffering from the condition. We need help. We need your support. We do not need your pity or sympathy. We need your love, care and guidance towards better mental health.
Follow all updates weekly using hashtag #DEMentalHealthMondays
Suicide Hotlines: 800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433) and 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)