I am not going to sit here and review the heartbreaking details of the past week. If you want the facts, you can find them through a quick Google search. Mental health is a disease. It affects many people – those who know it and those who go undiagnosed. The same way that someone who suffers from diabetes needs to monitor their health, a person who experiences mental health needs to pay attention and take care.
As someone who has been vocal in living with depression and anxiety, I felt a great sense of sadness when I learned about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Because I know there are good days and bad. I am so grateful to have a solid support system of family and friends who are there for me and create a space where I can be open and honest with how I’m feeling. That is a brilliant confidence to have. And it’s not one that everyone is privy to. And it is not something that people who are suffering always feel they are allowed to ask for.
It took me a long time to admit to myself and to others that despite everything in my life being fine, things were not necessarily fine. And that’s okay. There are things that you can do to feel more confident when processing these feelings and there are ways that your support system can help you when you’re feeling less than fine.
Phone a friend
Whether it’s someone you know or a professional, there are people and professionals you can talk to. Your GP can refer you to a therapist, and you can confide in a friend or family member. I’ve also added a few numbers below and are here to tell you that despite what you might think in the moment, people care, people want to help you, and there are people who are ready and available to talk to you.
Toronto Distress Centre: 416-408-HELP
Ontario Distress Centre: 905-688-3711
Canada Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-678-6868
I know it can seem scary and like there is no one who will understand. And I know that there are times when you feel like you are not validated in wanting to speak up. I felt guilty. Like I didn’t want to impose my feelings on other people because for whatever reason I felt I shouldn’t be feeling this way. But I have to tell you the honest truth: You might feel this way. And you’re allowed to feel this way. And speaking out about it helps.
For friends who are reading this, whether you know someone dealing with mental health issues, suspect it, or are completely unaware, here are a couple things that have proven helpful from my support system. Be mindful of your relationships – they have more of an impact than you may know.
Text a friendly reminder
Some of the best moments in my mental health journey have been the times when a friend has sent me a message or reached out, just because. Once I was open about what was going on, they have made it a point to do that subtle check-in and just remind me that they’re here. Whether it’s a good day or bad, that little remind resonates with me and lets me know that I am not alone and have created an environment where people are willing to be there for me.
Create healthy routines
Sometimes the best thing for a support system to do is encourage you to get up and get outside. Whether it’s signing up for a workout class or suggesting a walk on a sunny day, showing up for your friend and committing your time to a healthy activity is one of the best ways you can support them. Physical health can impact mental health and sometimes we need that extra push from a friend to get there.
L I S T E N
I can’t stress this enough. The idea of listening is such a simple concept but in a world full of clutter by way of social media, technology, and a constant need to be engaging content, often we find ourselves losing interest midway through a conversation. While a text is important, so is the other end of the spectrum, and when that friend does need you to chat, you need to put away the distractions and be there for them. Be ready to listen. And if you are worried past the point of a simple conversation, you too can reach out to the numbers above for advice.
I know these are things that seem so simple; something that you’re like, yes, I know this, as you read along. But little things are often forgotten and often missed, on both sides, for whatever reason. And if all we can do is provide this gentle reminder, after a week like the one we’ve just witnessed, then that’s what we’re going to do. So remember: be kind, be considerate, and be aware of how people around might be feeling. You’re allowed to speak up and talk about these things because I know that it starts to get so much better when you do.