Every day, six Australians will take their own lives—and another 30 will attempt to. But what if someone could be there for them? What if someone could have looked after them? What if we could have saved them? Mental illness is a serious—and terrifying—thing to experience or see. But even the smallest things can make a massive difference. Here’s how you can look after the ones you love:
Clean for them
I feel paralysed when I’m depressed. I can’t move. I sit, and stare off into nothingness, stuck in a black hole of desolation. I peer around my little apartment, and see unwashed dishes, an overflowing bin, crumbs and clothes on the floor. But there’s not a single thing I can do to fix it. Even getting out of bed is a mammoth task when you’re depressed, and cleaning is almost unthinkable. But at the same time, a messy house is distressing. It’s cluttered—just like your mind.
Having someone to help with this would be glorious—and if you don’t have to worry about small things like cleaning, you can start focussing on the real task at hand: fixing yourself.
Cook for them
It’s the same as the above scenario. When you’re feeling down, it’s really, really hard to look after yourself. When you’re sad, you don’t feel hungry—and you don’t exactly feel like cooking a nutritious meal loaded with veggies. I think eating a good meal is the first step to feeling better. It will help your body function better, and make you feel better. Who doesn’t love a food coma from comfort food? Cook your loved one their favourite meals: fill our hearts and our stomachs with love.
Tell them you’re there for them—and mean it
These small words can mean a lot—but if you say them, you have to really mean them. Check up on your loved ones. Make them smile. Help them do everyday chores, and encourage them to begin the healing process. Be there for them when they break down. Hang out with them, even if it’s something as banal as watching movies or having coffee. Trust me, the company will do them good. At the very least, it will stop them from doing something they’ll regret later—or something they may never come back from.
We all crave human contact, whether it be through a loving embrace, or a shoulder to cry on. This love is exceptionally important for someone caught in a spiral of self-hatred, trapped inside the insanity of their own mind. Love tem endlessly and unconditionally. Bet the rock that’s always there for them when their world is spiralling out of control.
I’m not telling you to go out and spend heaps of money—it’s the little things that matter the most. Pick them a flower, draw them a picture, write them a loving letter. Do something—anything—to make them smile, and remind them the world isn’t always a terrible place.
Talk to them
Sometimes you just need somebody to lean on. Let them vent, no matter how repetitive they are, or how illogical their worries may seem. Encourage them to feel their emotions, to process them, to validate them, and let it set them free. All we want sometimes is someone to listen to us, and to understand.
Remember the little things—the beautiful things. The sun licking your closed eyelids. A cool breaze. The smell of flowers. The sweet tweeting of birds. The feel of the ocean on bare feet. The taste of chocolate. The taste and vibrancy of life. Try new things, reintroduce them to old things they love. Send funny memes or cat videos: laughter isn’t the best medicine for nothing.
Love your friends. Love yourself. Life can be beautiful. You are strong, and you can get through this. I love you, and there is always hope. Keep fighting.
Do you need help? Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or chat online here.
Picture this: you’re on holidays. On the beautiful Coral Coast of Fiji, to be precise. You’re staying at a 5-star resort on its own island. The weather is absolutely beautiful, and the scenery stunning. You have delicious food. You have some of your favourite people around you. You’re doing all sorts of really cool, unique and relaxing things—things you may never experience again. And yet . . . something is missing. You feel empty.
Every day, at least six Australians will take their own lives, and at least 30 others will attempt to. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15-24. We’re more likely to die from suicide than we are from skin cancer. Almost half of all Australians will experience some form of mental illness within their lives, with 65% not being able to access adequate treatment. Despite all we know about depression, anxiety and other disorders, there’s still an incredible stigma attached.
Depression is a truly horrible feeling. It’s not just being sad (though that is a really big part of it). It’s feeling guilty for feeling sad, it’s feeling anxious, it’s feeling desolate, it’s feeling overwhelmed, it’s feeling lonely, it’s feeling like no one understands, it’s feeling like things that once did or should bring you joy simply don’t, it’s feeling like you’re worthless. It’s hating yourself. It’s hating everyone else too, sometimes. The worst part of it is all these emotions are locked up inside of yourself. You don’t want to tell anyone, because you don’t want to bring them down, or you’re afraid they’ll judge you. You’re afraid they’ll simply say “cheer up”, like it were that simple. Or worse, that they’ll say you’re seeking attention. Things become both less and more important. You don’t want to feel like this. You know it’s illogical – but you can’t help it, and people who haven’t experienced it simply don’t understand that.
I’m sitting in my hotel room right now. Outside, the sun is shining. The palm trees are swaying pleasantly in the wind, and I can see little birds singing happily. There are beautiful flowers in the trees, and scattered on the grass. A carpet of frangipanis and other bright red flowers I don’t know the name of. The air is warm, whispering alluring secrets of happiness, and I can hear the sound of people laughing and children shrieking with joy. My family and friends are among them.
Nothing bad has happened. In fact, it’s been quite a wonderful holiday. I’ve explored caves, been immersed within Fijian culture, been treated to massages and manicures, snorkelled and seen beautiful fish, and been able to spend my days lounging around the beach. It sounds great, right? And I know it’s great. I know I should feel happy. I know I should feel lucky, and privileged, and just relax. But it’s not that simple. I’m sad, and everyone else around me is happy. They’re saying it’s the best holiday of their lives, and here I am, not exactly caring if I were to not wake up.
Maybe it’s just a spout of weakness, and maybe I’ll go outside, and all of this will be a bad dream. Maybe I’ll be able to shut it out. Focus on the small things. The good things. The sun is warm. I don’t have assignments due. The geckos are adorable. I bought a shell turtle wearing a hat and glasses. Those things are cool. Those things are good. Those are the things you have to focus on in order to not lose your mind.
Depression doesn’t go on holidays just because you do. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to feel sad, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for that. Talk to your loved ones—don’t bottle it up. Remember to ground yourself, take deep breaths and do small things you like and enjoy. If you think one of your loved ones is depressed, do not judge them. Do not criticise them. Do not get frustrated at their sadness, and do not tell them to “cheer up”; just be there for them. Be with them. Don’t give up on them. While they may not show it, I assure you, they’ll love you for it. Don’t become another statistic.