As a University student, stress is just like breakfast… you expect to have it everyday. For some, handling stress is easy and it does not overwhelm them in their University lives. I am one of those people. Stress comes and goes and I deal with it when it is presented to me. Unfortunately for many, stress is an overwhelming concept that does not push them to accomplish, but rather drags them down and forces them to give up rather than to push through. As someone who has been able to keep up with school and social life for as long as I can remember, being friends with people that cannot do this is a constant challenge.
Statistics show that suicide rates are higher in rural areas like the small town I grew up in, and unfortunately, I knew too many people that ended their lives at a very young age due to the inability to deal with stress, depression, and anxiety. Guilt takes over many people when things like this happen. What could I have done as a friend to stop this from happening? Did I contribute to their stress? Was I a good enough friend? These questions tend to appear in the minds of those that were close to victims of suicide and mental illness. So, how can you be a friend to someone that has a mental illness?
Again, I know a lot of people that have suffered from a lot of different types of mental illness, so over many encounters, I have learned a few ways to be a better friend to those that may need the support. One important thing to remember is there is no stupid feeling. People feel the way they feel, and just as you can’t talk yourself out of cancer, you can’t talk yourself out of a mental illness. I have found that there have been countless times at wild hours of the night that I’ve wanted to hangup the phone and go to sleep more than anything in the world-but I keep this thought in mind. The person on the other end of the phone is depending on your support. The hardest thing to do is be consistent in providing support.
Additionally, we don’t have to act like stranger-robots around everyone. You are allowed to wave to people you don’t know, and it’s completely normal as a human to talk to people you don’t know. Socialization is key, and according to sociological research, next to food and water, the highest necessity for human life is acceptance and self-actualization. By just providing people with the knowledge that you are there for them, you could be helping them through a battle of the mind, whether they know it or not.
Mental illnesses are tough illnesses to understand, and I am in no way saying that supporting someone with kindness is going to cure them, but as a person, I know it can sure help. It sounds like an easy thing to do, but I have found time and time again that when a friend calls out to you for help, it is easy to assume they are overreacting. We need to remember that people rely on each other for support, and through a battle with mental illness, it could really help.