I’ve been trying to put into words how I feel about the death of actor Robin Williams but honestly the only thing I could come up with is, “depression is no joke.”
I’ve seen the hallow eyes of depression. The struggle to keep it all together. The eggshells cracking beneath the feet of careful walking. It’s real and we need to stop covering it up and address ways to help those struggling with all forms of mental illness.
What can we do for a person mentally ill?
Pray for them. Many have lost hope and are not in the position to pray their way out. That’s where the warriors need to stand in the gap.
Allow them to talk. Ask if they want you to just listen or if they are seeking advice. There’s nothing worse than unsolicited advice when you don’t feel well.
Love them. The feeling that no one cares, or understands is overwhelming.
Sometimes it’s extremely hard to discern whether you’re being manipulated, so it’s wise to avoid using words and statements that can be turned against you like, “you always do that! or, you need to snap out of it!” Also, be sure to set boundaries between you and the person battling depression or you can find your way down a very slippery slope.
There was a season where I was walking in the middle of the night with my son either outside if it was warm enough, or in 24-hour stores. He couldn’t sleep and I was afraid to allow him to walk alone because of his depression. The more I did that, the more fatigued I became. To the point where I became depressed as well from worry, lack of sleep and endlessly trying to “fix” him. I had to learn (it’s still a work in progress) to work on fixing me instead. The weight of his struggles and mine combined was too much to bear without help. So I got help… For me.
Please don’t ridicule a person who is mentally ill. Don’t put them down if they need to take medication or even the need for therapy. I can’t tell you how many people I wanted to flatten for telling me or my son to “increase your faith or you’ll get over it.”
Which brings me to this fantastic piece from PsychCentral.com:
The Worse Things to say to Someone Who’s Depressed
1. “What’s your problem?”
2. “Will you stop that constant whining? What makes you think that anyone cares?”
3. “Have you gotten tired yet of all this me-me-me stuff?”
4. “You just need to give yourself a kick in the rear.”
5. “But it’s all in your mind.”
Rest In Peace Robin Williams, You made us laugh and cry, and now you’re teaching the world about the pain of depression and mental illness.