Starting the conversation
It can be tricky to bring it up, but if you’re worried about saying the wrong thing, don’t be. The best way to start is to just ask them if they’re okay.
If you think someone might be dealing with depression or anxiety, you might avoid them because you don’t know what to do or say, or maybe you don’t really understand what it’s all about. This can make it harder for them to get through it. To make it go better, for both of you, here are a few tips:
- Pick a place that’s quiet and private
- Give yourself plenty of time
- Listen, more than talk. Really listen hard to understand how they’re feeling
- Save your advice for later
- Show you’re really listening
- Sit face-to-face so they can see your reactions
- Listening isn’t the same thing as agreeing. You can understand another person’s point of view without agreeing with it.
- Try to ask open-ended questions like; “How are you feeling?” or “Why do you think that?”
- Offer reassurance and hope. Say things like "Thank you for telling me this". "There is a way through this". "I am here for you".
Things NOT to do
It’s really important to be kind and accepting. The person has opened up to you, which is probably a big thing for them, so it’s important not to:
- tell them to 'snap out of it' or 'harden up' – People cannot 'make' themselves better
- encourage excess alcohol and drug use as a way of coping - it can make things worse
- avoid them – they already feel alone and this can make their depression worse
- assume the problem will just go away
- judge or criticise them for what they’re going through
- suggest or imply they’re weak or a burden on others.
Please take any thoughts (whakaaro) around suicide or self-harm seriously – and it’s okay to talk/kōrero about it. Don’t leave someone alone if they feel unsafe. If you think they have reached "crisis point" and you need urgent help, contact your local Mental Health Services immediately. Encourage the person to also tell a family member(whanaunga) or ask if you can help do this with them.
How you can help
It might seem small, but just doing things together, being there and staying connected can be a big help.
Depression and anxiety are so common that it’s highly likely that at some point you’ll know someone who might be experiencing it. It might be someone in your whānau, a team-mate or someone from your community. People with depression and anxiety are more likely to get through with help and support/tautoko than on their own.
Being depressed and anxious can be a really lonely experience. Sometimes the most important thing is having supportive people around or checking in. Having a coffee, watching telly, phoning or texting to say ’Hi’ can help a lot. When you’re feeling down, knowing that people are thinking of you can really lift your spirits.
Often when people are feeling bad they don’t want to go out and do anything. Everything feels just too hard. So encouraging them to do something with you is a great support. It could be something small like watching funny video clips on line, listening to music, going for a walk or window-shopping. Think about something you both like to do.
There are different things you can do, depending on who you’re trying to help:
Looking after yourself
If you are the main support person for someone going through depression or anxiety it can be rewarding, but it is challenging too. It could take a while for them to get through it, which is why it’s really important to look after yourself.
It’s really important to make sure you have support (tautoko) for yourself when you are supporting someone else, as it can take a lot out of you. Talking to others who are in a similar situation may be helpful. You need to care for your own wellbeing as well as the person you are caring for, and feel OK about this. Make time and space to look after yourself. Make sure you find opportunities to relax, have fun and take a break when you need it. Talking to others who are in a similar situation may be helpful. Think about contacting a support network. Exercise and sleep are also critical.
- Do I have someone I trust to talk to?
- Do I get enough breaks?
- Have I got regular times for relaxation?
- Am I getting regular exercise?
- Am I eating nutritious meals/kai?
- Do I get enough sleep?