A lot of us find it easier to open up about our problems with friends rather than doing so with our family members. We all have that one, or if you are lucky, a group of friends that knows us more intimately than our siblings, parents or spouses will ever do. They know our dirtiest deeds, our most embarrassing moments, our crushes, heartbreaks and we trust them with our deepest secrets and perils. However, how many of us do actually talk about mental health issues with this inner circle of friends? What keeps us from telling a close friend that we are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety?
- Most of us find it easier to open up about our struggles and secrets in front of our friends than our family members.
- But how many of us talk about dealing with mental health issues even with our best buddies?
- Have we failed to create a comfortable environment even in friendships, for a person to be able to open up about mental illnesses?
- If we can talk about our problems with our friends, why can’t we open up about what they are doing to our mental wellness?
According to the World Health Organisation, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression, globally, while 45 million suffer from bipolar disorder and 20 million from schizophrenia and other psychoses. While a lot is being said and written about the necessity of mental health awareness and care, we still see such discussions restricted to public platforms. How many of us are discussing depression, for instance, in our friends’ WhatsApp group? How many of us who are dealing with any mental illness have told our close friends about it? If you have been seeking therapy, do you share your experience, or just the fact that you are taking help from a mental health professional with your best buddies?
How many of us do actually talk about mental health issues with them? Just what keeps us from telling a close friend that we are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety?
This lack of intimate conversation shows why stigma around mental health issues isn’t so easy to get rid of. It is easier to write on public platforms or forums about it, but when it comes to putting it into practice in real life, we still feel uneasy. The blame for this uneasiness doesn’t lie with the person who fails to open up, but with the society that has failed to ease them out of their fears of being outcast. So while we discuss our struggles and difficulties, we do not take the discussion forward, as to how these things are affecting our mental wellness. However, that needs to change.
In a 2011 study conducted on respondents who had sought help from family members and friends for depression, 51.3 percent participants cited only advantages of seeking such help, while six percent cited the only disadvantages. The advantages listed by them were social support provision, background knowledge, opportunity to offload the burden of depression, accessibility, etc.
Healing, while being an individual and intimate journey for many, can also be a communal process for people.
When friendships manage to break through the barriers created by the stigma around mental health, a person in need can find a solid support system, an empathetic listener and a cheerleader in their friends. It can also motivate your friends to open up about their own mental health issues because now they know that they are not alone. Healing, while being an individual and intimate journey for many, can also be a communal process for people.
Which is why we need to bring the conversations on mental health into our friendships. Let’s take our journeys, opinions and ordeals offline, with a promise to keep an open mind and a determination to make efforts to destigmatise mental illnesses. A friend’s unconditional support, or perhaps just a pat on the shoulder to acknowledge that you are not alone, can make the journey to heal a less lonely one.
Picture Credit: Redbook
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.