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Mental Health Awareness Week: Friends and family helping those with depression need support too


As Mental Health Awareness Week nears its end an anonymous student tells Exeposé that being a caring partner, friend or relative of someone with a mental health problem can make a hugely positive difference – but there’s no shame in admitting you also need help from others to share the burden…

Mental health still has something of a stigma attached to it, doesn’t it? Perhaps the way slang has evolved to produce a certain image of someone ‘mental’ hasn’t helped. Nor has the way the word is casually thrown around in the same unhelpful, discriminatory manner that ‘gay’ is.

Maybe the problem is just that because it is so hard to articulate those emotions they stay wrapped up and never spoken out loud, thus the matter is not openly discussed (hence the stigma and stereotypes) and those people who need help go unsupported.

However, it is not just those suffering the direct effects of depression that need support. Being the friend/brother/sister/boyfriend/girlfriend of someone suffering depression can be a huge challenge and one many struggle to cope with.

Image Credit: NHS
Image Credit: NHS

Mental health issues are not solved by simply asking ‘what’s wrong?’ – that will get you nowhere. It is patience and unwavering support of a sufferer that will help them through; there is not a cut-and-paste solution.

As Stephen Fry has pointed out, “Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation, depression just is, like the weather.” It is unpredictable,  often unchangeable and sometimes it seems there’s no end to the rain. But the sun does always come out again, eventually.

From personal experience, supporting someone going through depression is draining. I often felt suffocated, particularly as the stigma around mental health still creates an atmosphere of shame and denial which left me as the sole bearer of their depression.

I like to think that I’m a strong person; I’m known for my maternal instincts and no-nonsense attitude, but coping through those months took all of my energy and concentration.

I’m not claiming to have had even half as rough time as my other half, but if I could go back and change something, I would ask for support – both professional and from friends. There is no shame in admitting you need help and you should never feel like you ever have to cope alone.

Depression is a dangerous demon that haunts those facing it. It can take a long time and infinite patience to conquer, but that is not something that can just rest on the shoulders of a few. If we spread that load, open up and talk about what we are experiencing and how we are dealing with it, then we can face depression as an army ready to fight and defeat it.


Mental health charity Mind emphasise on their website that the support of friends and loved ones can make all the difference to those with depression – but they also urge carers to look after themselves and seek help, whether it’s from friends or your GP. 

If you want to talk to someone confidentially about any of the issues raised by this article, you could contact Voice, a student run listening service. 

Keep an eye on Exeposé’s Facebook and Twitter for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (Feb 24 – Mar 2) content and updates, plus all our Mental Health Awareness Week coverage.

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