By Chia Kei Yin (24S03C) and Lee Tse Yee Megan (24S03M, Peer Helper)
Your resident Aunties and Uncles are back with our Ask Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset column, this time as a collaboration between Raffles Press and Peer Helpers’ Programme (PHP)! Ever wanted to rant about that someone you just can’t stand? Overwhelmed with too many feelings? Submit your confessions to https://tinyurl.com/RIAAUU and we’ll give them our best shot. This column will be published at the end of every month.
If my friend is struggling with anxiety and depression and messages me saying they are feeling bad, how should I support them? Is there any way to help them feel better? What if they just send short messages and don’t really elaborate much?Concerned Connie
Dear Concerned Connie,
Supporting a loved one with mental illness is not always easy, especially if the person struggling is not comfortable talking about their troubles. We would like to first applaud you for your kindness and compassion!
For your friend who has anxiety and depression, it might be an isolating and lonely experience, which is why your support is so crucial in helping them know they are not alone.
You can start by letting them know that they will always have your support. For example, you could tell them “I’m always here for you” or “I care for you”. Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling and let them know that you are willing to listen without judgement!
If they just send short messages and are unwilling to elaborate, you can gently ask them if there is anything they would like to talk about or if there is anything specific that is causing them to feel anxious or depressed.
You could do so by giving them assurance that you will help them through their troubles, such as telling them, “Hey, if you need to let some things off your chest you can always tell me, okay?” Asking them open-ended questions like “What do you think could be the reasons behind how you are feeling?” could also help them process their feelings.
If they don’t want to talk, respect their boundaries and let them know that you are there for them when they are ready to talk. Their body language and facial expressions can give away hints of how they may be feeling at the time, and occasionally, giving them some space to process events or emotions is a wiser choice.
Let your friend share as much as they are comfortable with, and try not to push or force them to share beyond what they already have, as this may give them the impression that you do not care about their boundaries. They may end up distancing themselves from you as a result.
In fact, simply being there to listen to your friend might be the most helpful. If you think online conversations are not appropriate, you might want to suggest having a face-to-face talk at a quiet, private location. Since you can pick up on your friend’s non-verbal cues during face-to-face conversations, you may be able to understand their perspective better and empathise with them more.
That said, while you can offer support and be there for your friend, remember that you are not responsible for “fixing” their anxiety and depression. Sometimes, your friend might not require direct, concrete solutions to the challenges that they face, but just need an outlet to vent their pent-up frustration and feel that their voice is heard.
You could try to listen to their worries to better understand your friend’s feelings and their point of view. Don’t be quick to judge or criticise them, even if you have good intentions in doing so. Instead, take their feelings seriously, and build rapport and trust with them by consistently being there for them!
Additionally, kind actions that seem ‘small’ or ‘insignificant’ may, in fact, make your friend’s day and boost their morale. For example, checking in on them throughout the week or a simple “How are you feeling?” could mean a lot to them as it shows that you still remember and think about what they shared with you. Understanding your friend’s love languages, or how they receive and accept love, would also help you understand how to show them care and concern.
For example, if they prefer physical touch, you could give them high-fives and hugs more often (if they expressed they are comfortable with it). If they feel more loved when others spend quality time with them, you can invite your friend to do more activities that you both enjoy.
Such preferences vary from person to person, so it is important to understand what your friend enjoys and also what they are uncomfortable with.
Lastly, don’t be so hard on yourself, because it is already commendable that you care so much for your friend! We are sure your support will be greatly appreciated. Do also remember to take care of yourself, as you can’t care for others well when your own needs are not met.
All the best for you and your friend’s journey through the highs and lows of life.
Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset
If you need anyone to talk to about any issues you might be facing, do drop by My Rest Space near Marymount gate and talk to one of our peer helpers! We’re open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 3 – 5 p.m, and Wednesday 11.00 a.m. – 1.00 p.m. If you would like to meet a peer helper on a regular basis, do email us a request at email@example.com or fill in our request form at our website https://rafflespeerhelpers.wordpress.com!