When talking about mental health, I often see a focus on what symptoms encompass depression, anxiety and other conditions.
I also see resources for people to reach out to if they need it, such as suicide prevention hotlines and counseling services.
Perhaps just as important and necessary, I see announcements or Instagram posts urging people to be allies for their friends suffering from mental health conditions.
Saying you’re able to be there for someone is different than actually being there.
I know when I struggled with my mental health for years, it felt like a constant weight on my shoulders. Each and every aspect of my daily life was affected by it — from hanging out with friends, to talking to girls and to playing basketball.
With such a stigma around sharing mental health struggles with others — especially in a culture where men sharing their feelings is looked down upon — I often felt I had nobody to talk to. That feeling of being alone and drowning in your own thoughts is the worst thing in the world.
I remember the medication — the Zoloft, the Wellbutrin — and how it was all supposed to help. I know I never felt better after taking it for years. While medication may help some, I still felt alone, swallowing pills day after day. Sitting in my room by myself, I always felt lost and abandoned.
You can’t walk alone in the battle against mental health, especially in those darkest moments. You need someone to be there for you.
It's natural to turn to counseling. Counselors are different from friends, however. They charge to see you and, regardless of good intentions, have to make a living at the end of the day.
I always felt that any counselors I’ve talked to have meant well, but there is no substitute for a close friend reaching out and checking in.
Once my friends caught on that I was struggling, I received an outpouring of support. After that, the road to recovering was so much easier.
I’m lucky to have a support system of friends who love and care for me. I’m also even more fortunate that they were able to reach out and comfort me in my times of need.
I can’t imagine who I would be or where I would be without their support.
Not everyone has that support system. Not everyone has people who will reach out to them and take that initiative. Far too many suffer on their own and don’t know who to reach out to.
After getting through my own personal struggles with the help of others, I’ve been able to reach out to those going through similar difficulties. Many people helped me through the most difficult times, and I’m more than happy to be able to be there for others.
Reaching out to those you know may be struggling is hard. You may not want to seem aggressive, or you may be scared it could make things worse. From my experience, whenever someone looked after me and made sure to check in, I always felt appreciated and loved for — even if they weren’t a super close friend.
Reaching out is always worth the effort and is really that important. Being that friend for someone is not just helpful but can be life saving for many.
I know it was for me.