5 Practical Ways To Actually Help Someone Uplift Their Mental State Beyond The Virtue Signalling
Updated: Jan 7, 2021
Suicide is a dark reminder that sometimes being strong-willed isn't enough. Depression can take a huge toll on the strongest, brightest minds. Day in day out, we hear of "happy", cheerful, successful people who have lost the battle to depression.
Sometimes, we can be the one that needs help too. Depression can be clinical and not be attributed to that one thing or it can actually be triggered by protracted sadness emerging from a failed relationship, a betrayal, financial loss, insecurities, fear of future, or a combination of some.
Whatever the case be, it forces us to sometimes think of the role we play in the society, as friends, as family or even as strangers towards helping others heal.
The CoVid situation hasn't particularly helped things. The pandemic and its lockdowns have caused more damage than people realise. The financial losses have caused insecurities and anxiety, and if you live alone, it's come with crippling loneliness & depression. And if both, it's literally the worst one has felt mentally. Only the strongest can emerge unscathed out of a situation like that.
The latest victim to pay for depression with his own mortality is Sushant Singh Rajput - an actor I'd always found enigmatic, charming, and deep. As shocked I am to hear about his suicide, somehow I'm not surprised. No amount of fame, money or success can heal a broken interior. Sometimes it's the people in your life that cause such a deep level of hurt that can be hard to recover from. Sometimes people can be your reason for living, sometimes they can be for the dying. We don't know what it was in Sushant's case, but his death comes as a wake-up call to be cognizant of the role we play in another person's well-being.
As is always the case, my social media feeds are full of people talking about mental health, and with all good intentions, opening up their DMs and imploring people to share what hurts them.
But not everyone who's ailing mentally is either strong enough or comfortable enough to open up to someone. Especially, if you're yet to establish a "trust factor" with the person offering the patient ear.
If you really mean to help, look closer, dig deeper, and do more beyond the lip-service.
Identify the cause of the sadness
The first step towards a fix is to identify the problem. Why's someone feeling the way they are? Are they hurting over a heartbreak? Are they anxious about money? Are they lonely? Are they missing their family? Once you're closer to figuring that out, comes the solution stage.
Here's some things you can do depending on the level of closeness with that person, and the cause of their mental state. Whatever you do do however, please do it honestly, with integrity, and without making it obvious to them that you're doing any of it out of an act of charity.
1. Visit their home even if you weren't invited/ Call them over
Look, someone battling a severe mental disruption isn't going to be exactly sending out party invites. They aren't going to proactively make the efforts to socialise or have people over. But that doesn't mean they don't crave or desire company. Loneliness can compound depression many times over. Just having a positive, considerate person around feels good, even if they ain't exactly playing therapist. So make time to visit a family member, a friend or a neighbour. Or call them over. A change of scenery can help pull them out of a dark place. Watch TV, cook, or just sit and chit chat without an agenda. Your organic time and effort for them can be much more therapeutic than a paid professional at times.
2. Boost their self-worth and confidence with a shot in the arm
A lot of high-functioning, successful people can feel the blues when they don't feel like they're doing enough, or succeeding enough. A lot of creative people tend to give in to depression because a creative mind seeks validation. It's not ideal, but that's how it is. If that is the case, then step in and help them regain their confidence. Dig up their works and send them an appreciation note. Share their videos, and comment positive things on it. Tell them how talented and smart you think they are. A free compliment for you can do wonders for someone's mental health in ways that no money in the world can. And if they sell their art, no better vote of confidence than buying it.
3. Send them (a preferably) anonymous donation:
Protracted financial worries can be a huge reason behind depression. Even if money didn't trigger it, it can exacerbate the situation. People who're depressed tend to lose focus, the will to perform, to be productive, and monetary woes can stem from that. Whatever the case be, unless you know the person is well-to-do and money is the least of their worries, pitching in with some can always help. A lot of people who need professional help don't go to therapy because it's expensive. And noone wants to create a hole in their already strained savings by adding on therapy expenses. So if nothing else, the contribution can fund their expenses which in turn will help them mentally.
4. Introduce them to people / Involve them in social setups
Loneliness is the top cause of depression. We may be more connected with other people online than ever, but in real life people ain't together as often anymore. Not every lonely person is a loner by choice. Especially if you're at a point where you don't live with your family anymore, don't have flatmates and/or you're single, life can get incredibly lonely at a time. The older you get, the fewer the opportunities to meet new people get too. The nicest thing you can do for people who're lonely is to be there for them. Second nicest is to introduce them to more people, involve them in social events, invite them to parties. If they're single, and are ready to be in a relationship (again), some good ol' matchmixing can do them wonders. If they live away from their family, "lend" them your family. Invite them for lunch/dinner with your family or have them over during festivals - times when people can feel more lonely than ever.
5. Send them a thoughtful note, dessert or a gift
The power of thoughtful gestures and gifts is severely under-rated. I've seen my own mood turn around from the abyss to upbeat after someone's done something thoughtful for me. It could be something like sending them a pizza/dessert (takes 3 clicks on Zomato/Swiggy), or making a custom song/poem/tweet for them or depending on what they like, doing that for them. I always make sure I visit a friend who's going through an upset, with a home-made dish or a plant or something else that can perk up their mood.
We don't always realise the effect of our actions on people's mental states. We may not be able to eliminate or fix what's broken completely, but we can give them a reason to smile, to feel less shitty about the world and their surroundings. Do it even if you feel like the person doesn't "deserve it" or that you aren't close enough with them to lean in. A very small effort can save a life and it's worth it, even if awkward, challenging or lame to you. Some days you're the healer, some days you're the one that needs the healing.