After the recent suicide of a celebrity, posts about mental health awareness have instantly sprung up all over social media. Friends say - "Why didn't the person reach out to us for help" while others offer themselves for support to people/friends going through depression.
So why do people under extreme depression not reach out for help? Here are some hard facts:-
- When things are not going well for you, you are completely on your own. When you are down and out or are not "doing well", people don't even take your calls. Everyone has experienced this; some still are.
- No one wants to get out of their comfort zone and help, either because they themselves have got it easy or, have had to work hard to achieve what they have. 'Help' is a long-term responsibility which no one wants to take. 'Deal with your own problems' has always been the motto.
- Everyone is offering free advice but that's not what a depressed person needs. He/she knows the problem (job, money etc) and needs a solution, not free advice.
- Real advice/direction can only be provided by a trained practitioner. They don't come cheap and if the depressed person is having financial trouble, seeking out professional help is not an option. Even if there are helplines, one will come to a point where one has to dig into one's pockets.
- A depressed person cannot help but think and talk negatively. And people want to stay away from toxic people. So such people are avoided.
- A person who is undergoing depression may reach out to friends and talk about their problems. And these friends may listen but in all probability will spin it around as gossip. It has happened before with the same people so why would a depressed person think that this would be any exception?
- When people know that a person is down, he/she is ostracized. No one wants to be around what they consider a 'negative' person. In fact, people want to only be around 'successful' people.
- People put up posts calling people 'friends like family.' But the fact of the matter is that friends are not family. Many a times, friends are competitors and are secretly happy to see you going down. Friendships are conditional, family is not. Family will almost always help. If you have a really supportive family, you are truly blessed.
- A friend who has been set up by his/her family, will show support but rarely act on it. They have never needed the help of friends and never will. They will do and say whatever is needed to keep the friendship going if it benefits them. But when it comes to offering real and meaningful support, they will disappear. Of course, there are exceptions. Bottom line - choose your 'real' friends carefully.
- Of course, there are friends who care and will help. But these friends are those rare gems who keep calling and checking on you, regardless. Not the ones who you have to reach out to.
- Putting up posts and saying that you are accessible doesn't mean that the person will reach out to you. If you were so concerned and such a helpful and caring person, the depressed person would have come to you for help before reaching a point where he/she had to contemplate suicide.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Stay in touch with your close friends or the people you care about. Even if it's a call once a week. Face-to-face even better. One-on-one for a quick coffee is best. Meeting in a group or partying with people is not really spending time. When you take time out for a person alone, he/she will know that they can reach out to you when they have problems. That's if you really are serious about helping. It is a commitment, a long-term responsibility, which if not seen till the end could put the person in further depression.
- Putting up a post telling people that you are available to help neither increases your brand value nor instills confidence in people who need help. Why would they get in touch with someone they hardly know or are not close to? Instead, identify the people in your own life you really care about and would put ahead of yourself to help. Meet them so they know that you are there. And if you are going to use their personal problems as fuel for gossip, don't even bother. You're only making it worse.
- Once again, stay in touch with the people you care about so that they know they can reach out to you for support. Who knows - tomorrow you may need their support. And WhatsApp messages don't count because it's playing it safe. It's like getting involved without actually getting involved.
- If you don't care, don't act like you do. What's the point? If you care, then act.
So to all those putting up posts, talking about mental health and offering themselves for support, please understand that depression is a serious issue that can lead to death. Maybe some of these posts are genuine and well-intentioned, but to most people these posts come across as cashing in on the 'flavor of the month.' Instead, stay in touch with the people you care about so they know that you are there. Don't wait for them to reach out; put your egos aside and reach out to them. But call yourself a friend only if you are prepared to help in whatever way you can. Help and support are responsibilities, not favors for which you should expect something in return. And if you cannot take such responsibilities, you have no business offering 'support', you have no business calling yourself a 'friend.'
Be a 'real' friend or don't be a friend at all.