Mental disorders refer to a range of different problems generally characterized by some combination of abnormal thoughts, emotions, behavior, or relationships with others. One of the most common mental disorders across the globe is depression, it is the leading cause of sickness and disability across the globe, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) reporting over 300 million sufferers. Mental health disorders have started to be recognized in the Maldives as well, and it is important that we, as a society, contribute to the recognition and importance of mental health through continuing to stay informed, aware, and open-minded.
“Life is beautiful, sometimes it’s messy, and it’s always unpredictable. But it’ll all be okay when you have your support system to help you through it. I hope that if your burden gets too heavy, that you’ll ask for a hand, too”
I have experienced the darkness that is depression, and if you told me during my darkest days that I would find a way out of the darkness, let alone that I would find happiness, I would have told you that it was impossible. But I did find a way out of that darkness and I have found happiness. What pulled me out of the pit of depression, you may ask? My family. My friends. Therapy and/or medication are indeed important in treating severe depression, but I can tell you for certain that it was the love and support of my family and friends that had the most impact.
The positive impact that healthy relationships have on mental health cannot be overstated. Healthy relationships help people live longer and happier lives, it also gives people a sense of purpose and belonging, and this is important for all, not just for people suffering from mental health disorders. Individuals suffering from depression have said that relationships make them feel stronger, and that the right kind of friends who are understanding and supportive have provided them with stability through their emotional instability. In fact, relationships are so important to our health, research shows that the impact that lack of healthy relationships has on mental health is comparable to the impact smoking or diabetes has on physical health. In addition, in the longest-running research on human development conducted by Harvard University, it was found that happiness is not a result of wealth, fame, or working hard, but that happiness comes instead from our relationships.
While it has been shown that our relationships have the potential to positively impact our lives, it is important to remember that mental health difficulties, such as depression, can influence the way people connect with others and how they develop relationships. Individuals with depression can find it difficult to interact and connect with others even while they are aware that it could make them feel better. If you have a friend or a family member suffering from depression, given below are a few ways you could try and help them.
To help your loved one:
- Let them know that you want to help, listen without judgement, and offer support.
- Read up and try to find out more about depression.
- Encourage them to get professional help if it is available, and offer to go to appointments with them.
- If they have been prescribed medication, you could help them take it as needed. Be patient; it can take a few weeks for them to feel better.
- Help them with everyday tasks and to have regular eating and sleeping patterns.
- Encourage regular exercise and social activities.
- Encourage them to focus on the positive, rather than the negative.
- If they are thinking about self-harm, or have already intentionally harmed themselves, do not leave them alone. Seek further help from a health-care professional. In the meantime, remove items such as medications and sharp objects.
At the end of the day, your presence, the fact that you are there to listen to your loved one, could mean the most. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have all the answers, you don’t have to have all the answers, sometimes letting someone be heard could be more powerful and helpful than you could imagine. “Life is beautiful, sometimes it’s messy, and it’s always unpredictable. But it’ll all be okay when you have your support system to help you through it. I hope that if your burden gets too heavy, that you’ll ask for a hand, too”. In loving someone with a mental health disorder, it is also important that you realize that it can be difficult for you as well, that it is okay for you to have days when you struggle, and that you reach out for support when you need it as well.
Our community has been changing over the past few decades, from a community where everyone knows each other to one of busy strangers. The community has been impacted by the longer working hours, changing family dynamics, more changes in where we live, and our reliance on social media. Most of us use social media to connect with our friends and family, however, research shows that although social media does help us connect with others, it is not the same as face-to-face interactions. It is the neurochemical response which happens in the brain during face-to-face interactions that contributes to happiness and wellbeing, and this cannot be attained from social media. We need to evolve with the changes to our community and ensure we do not lose sight of the importance of real relationships in this age of social media and hectic work schedules. We need to ensure we do not take for granted the impact that relationships have on our mental health.