- Acknowledge that Mental Health is real. Depressive symptoms can subside much quicker if the person does not feel like they have to convince themselves or anyone else that they are real. Validating a person's feeling of depression does not make them real, they are real whether we want them to be or not. Allowing them to feel them and talk about them and telling them that it is OKAY to feel this way sometimes, or even that we feel this way sometimes can be incredibly helpful.
- Daily Attempts to Check In. Have a daily activity to connect with one another. I love the High/Low game. It can be a quick check in or a longer conversation, if needed. It is a great way to encourage loved ones to check in on themselves emotionally and not bottle up things they don't feel are important to share. It is key that everyone participate. Take turns sharing your Highest or Best part of your day and then your Lowest or Hardest part of your day. Allow space for a longer conversation, if needed.
- Listening without offering advice. This one can be hard to do with loved ones, we have a natural instinct to jump in and save them. A lot of times, we will feel like we failed if we cannot help them. It actually adds pressure on to our loved ones that they HAVE to feel better right away. Just listen, let them get things off of their chest and if you really feel the urge, simply ask them IF or HOW you can help. How you would ask for help, may not be how they would ask.
- Build Health Habits. Inviting loved ones to join you in healthy habits or even just practicing them yourself and modeling the behaviors can be way more inviting than suggesting. Balancing meals as opposed to dieting, going for walks together instead of forcing yourself to try a rigorous workout routine, or allowing yourself downtime instead of needing to feel productive 24/7 are great examples of giving your body and mind a break without feeling pressure or guilt if you do not engage in a healthy "chore".
- Allow outside Social Support. We all want to believe we are there for everyone but sometimes, we are simply not what they need. Allowing your loved ones to reach out to who can help them the best in different situations, IS supporting them. If they feel more comfortable reaching out to a family friend, grandparent, sibling, etc, help them connect with that person and alleviate the guilt they may be feeling.
- Practice and Encourage Self-Care. Practicing self-care yourself models for your loved one that they too can relax and not feel guilty. Taking care of someone that needs extra love and support can take a toll. There is no shame in admitting that you too, are tired. Keep in mind that some people recharge with music, tv, or quiet time while others recharge by building something, exercising or being around people. Allow your loved ones to recharge the way that they need to, even if it is different than you. Find ways to relax together and apart and add it into your new healthy routines.
- TAKE TALK OF SUICIDE SERIOUSLY. If you feel your loved one is a harm to themselves call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential support available 24/7. If you are not sure, they are there to help you be sure. You are not responsible for curing your loved one. Simply encouraging your loved one to seek professional help without feeling alone can be the best thing you can do for them and yourself.
Brittany Junker MS,
Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern