How to help your friends struggling with mental illness

Supporting The Mentally Ill Is More Than Sharing A List Of Things To Live For

The next time you want to comfort them, don't tell them what they need to do; ask what they need.

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Depression is something I've struggled with for many years, and that's exactly what it is—a struggle. In light of mental health, I've also seen a lot of pieces aimed at those who are contemplating taking their own life. I'm here to say, though, that making a list of pretty flowers and people to feel guilty about leaving behind isn't going to talk your close friends off of a ledge. If anything, you may be unknowingly driving them to it.

Thankfully, I haven't been in a place where I've tried to take my own life. One of the biggest parts of keeping me from that dark place has been being vocal about my feelings and struggles. I have, however, been in situations where I contemplate what the purpose of life is. You can easily ask this question of others and get a variety of the same few answers: religion, what would my friends and family do when I'm gone, etc. I think it's really easy to tell someone they should back off of that ledge, but I think that many of the reasons we give our loved ones for living are selfish ones. If they have reached the point where they believe that is their only option, they've probably gone through the various consequences in their head and telling them they won't get to see sunflowers isn't going to change their minds.

I realize that this sounds really cynical, but from my own personal experience, I think that there are other, better ways that you can help your loved ones who are struggling. One of the biggest ways you can help them is by noticing signs early. If they aren't keeping regular eating habits, are staying in bed all day, seem to have trouble focusing and keeping conversations, or any other common symptom, it may be your loved one's non-vocal way of showing that something isn't right. What you shouldn't do in this case, though, is talk to them about what they need to do. Don't tell them they need to go get some exercise, eat better food, and be happier. That's the goal, and it's hard enough to accomplish it without outside pressure. In my case, I also don't like when other people try to sympathize with what I'm going through. Don't try to make my problems seem less significant because you've also been "really sad sometimes." Each person is different though, so the biggest help is in just getting to know what your loved one needs from you.

This might sound like I'm telling you not to try to help, but that's not what I'm saying at all. I'm just saying that there are more subtle ways of doing things. For me, I feel better when I can spend time with other people, but without the pressures of social outings. If your friend has been stuck in bed all day, maybe ask if they want to watch their favorite movie. You can even bring the movie to them, and maybe open a blind or two while you're at it. It's the baby steps and knowing that there are people that care for you that help more than anything. Rather than tell a loved one that they need to exercise, maybe suggest going on a walk at a secluded park where they don't have to worry about facing other people. Don't push too hard, because I promise, they're already beating themselves up enough about not being able to get out of bed or eat more than a couple of bites of a granola bar.

Depression takes many forms, and it can suck the life out of the most vibrant people. While medication is very helpful to some people, it isn't always the only answer. Nine times out of ten, individuals suffering from depression need a strong and patient support system to show them love and, may I emphasize again, patience throughout their struggles. Fighting your own mind is harder than fighting any opponent, and I would say that those that live with any mental health issues are well aware of this.

So, while we appreciate you showing us a list of 50 things we'll miss out on if we die now, it's not those 50 things that are keeping us here. It's the fact that you kept us in mind and dropped in with a little reminder of your presence in our lives. We may not be the easiest to love at times, but you doing your best to help us do our best, is a worth more than any drug a doctor could prescribe and we thank you for your commitment to us.

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10 Bible Verses for Self Esteem

Sometimes you need to search for inner strength and find your own self worth.
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We all get those days that we just don't feel good enough for anything. Everything is going wrong. For me, I go to the bible to read the words of God. His personal dialog for us is filled with encouragement, hope, and lessons we can learn from. Here are my top ten verses that are uplifting and impacting when at the lowest of lows:

1. Philippians 4:13:

I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.

2. Psalm 46:5

God is within her, she will not fall.

3. Proverbs 31:25

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

4. Psalm 28:76

The Lord is my strength and my shield.

5. 1 Corinthians 25:10

By the grace of God, I am what I am.

6. Romans 5:8

I loved you at your darkest.

7. Psalm 62:5-6

Only God gives inward peace, and I depend on Him. God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe, and he is the fortress where I feel secure.

8. 2 Timothy 1:7

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.

9. 1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

10. 2 Chronicles 20:15

The battle is not ours, but God's.

Cover Image Credit: chinadaily

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11 Things You NEVER Say To A College Girl Trying To Get Into Shape

Just never talk about a person's weight.

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When my family and friends joked that I was going to gain 15 pounds in my freshman year of college as a result of the "Freshman 15," I thought it was what it was supposed to be: a joke. However, as the year has come to an end, I realized that I actually did put on a couple of pounds, albeit it wasn't the predicted 15.

As I told those that I wanted to get into an ideal shape for my body, I was met with some insensitive and ignorant remarks. Everyone thought that I mean just losing the weight I had put on.

1. "You walk to all of your classes, why aren't you losing weight that way?"

My legs are more toned than they ever have been before. However, most of the weight I have been gaining has gone directly to my gut (annoying!) and walking does not remedy that. Unfortunately, I have to stick to ab workouts.

2. "But you look fine to me!"

I don't feel healthy to myself. I'm not trying to stay in shape for anyone else, just myself, thanks. I appreciate you trying to make me feel better about my body image but I know something has to be done.

3. "I didn't gain any weight in college."

Good for you. I did. I'm trying to do something about it.

4. "Just stop drinking."

I don't drink. Really, the only liquid I consume is water or iced tea. I don't like soda and alcohol makes me nauseous way too easily.

5. "Isn't the gym free on campus for students?"

Yes, but some people don't like working out in front of others. I am one of those people. My friend lives in an apartment complex that has their own gym and almost no one is ever there but not everyone has that luxury. Also, some are busy and do not have time for a quick jog or to stretch.

6. "You should try this diet/pills/exercise routine."

I am thankful that you are trying to help but my diet is just eating healthy and having a few cheat days in between. I know what exercises work best for me and I am just not taking pills. Bodies adjust differently.

7. "Don't starve/force yourself to throw up."

Trust me, I know. I'm trying to lose the weight healthily. If you do find yourself practicing unhealthy eating habits or realizing your body image is deteriorating, the NEDA Hotline is (800) 931-2237. Please reach out if you are going through hardships.

8. "Won't you have to buy a whole new wardrobe?"

If I drop (or even add) a size or two. We grow out and grow tired of clothes on the regular, what's the difference if you have to buy some because of a weight change? Plus, who doesn't love buying new clothes?

9. "Just eat healthier."

Didn't think of it! Options are limited at college where the dining halls don't offer all that much that is actually good for your body. Now that I'm at home, it's easier. But I'm already trying to eat healthy.

10. "You've evened out since the last time I saw you!"

This is code for you've put on some weight. I hear it mostly from older relatives because my friends will flat out tell me if I've gotten a little chunky.

11. "You're just stressed."

Personally, this one gets me livid. I do admit that when I am stressed or anxious, I do turn to food for comfort but when I am delighted and genuinely happy, will my body magically revert into a fit state?

Sadly, no.

Honestly, I am just trying to get my body back into shape. For me, that means cutting back on greasy foods and kicking a bad habit of sitting on my butt all day. For others, it could mean more or less. As long as your body is in good physical condition and you are content, the number on the scale and others' thoughts shouldn't matter. Take care of yourself.

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