Before I begin, I have to warn you that this won’t be a cheery post about how wonderful 2017 has been these past two weeks. 2017, however, short it has been so far has undoubtedly been a blessing to me and I hope the same for you. But life is full of challenges and opportunity for improvement so here we go…
This is a topic that the young black community won’t stop discussing these days – which is great news! But as important as this topic is, I avoided discussing it because it is one that hits a little too close to home.
Unfortunately, or fortunately (I’m still undecided), someone close to me expressed that they had been going through a hard time and it hurt me to find out that I was unaware; what devastated me even more was something that they said:
“If I was white they might have called it depression”
This brought me to tears almost instantly. Talking and crying whilst trying to keep someone else feeling encouraged and happy isn’t a skill I have mastered and so this conversation quickly ended, which didn’t help either of us; but it was pretty clear to me that I had suddenly taken on such a large burden that I couldn’t be of assistance at that moment anyway.
These words that were spoken over a month ago are still haunting me today, what on earth has race got to do with depression? As in infuriated as I am, I can kind of understand why someone would say this; there’s no doubt that mental health issues are not recognised within the black, especially the African community, where you haven’t got a mental illness until you’ve reached Nollywood heights of village madness.
So maybe Black Depression should be a thing, just until we can establish that black people can be depressed.
So here’s where this post comes in: this experience has taught me that as friends, family or lovers, we can only do so much. We can only share so much sympathy or empathy for someone, we can only do so many things to make things seem better and we can only try so hard to be there for people. But we are NOT superheroes; we cannot solve everyone’s problems or write a blog post on every challenge our loved ones are facing and be certain that brighter days have arrived. Not everything is in our control and this is okay.
We can’t fall into the trap of allowing someone else’s depression to lead to our own. When we think of the common causes of depression we think of stress, work, university/college, financial struggles, bullying etc and these are all very serious and valid triggers, but what is often overlooked is the prolonged feelings of sadness sparked by the depression of others.
We can’t prevent this 100%, but we can certainly deal with it. Self-care is crucial.
Know when to take a break.
Do not, and I repeat, do not allow yourself to be burdened. You were not built to carry the worries of the world on your head. I’m not suggesting that you go out of your way to completely distance yourself from everyone with an issue, but find methods of coping with this. During a time when I felt like I was consumed with so many issues that didn’t have my name on them, I read an article that helped me realise that I needed to make self-care a top priority in my life. Read here.
Know when to suggest that they seek professional help.
Let’s face it, you’re no expert and chances are you might even go ahead and say the wrong thing. Don’t feel as though you are obliged to wave some magic wand and grant everyone the happiness and peace they are seeking: you don’t have such power. No one does, but some people are trained with better magic skills than the rest of us, let the professionals help as best as they can.
Know when to highlight the underlying issue.
Very often people feel down for sustained periods without actually knowing that they are depressed, sometimes your job might be to help them recognise this; even if they aren’t depressed or it’s extremely mild, it’s always better to be aware and to be cautious.
Know when to mention God.
As a Christian, I understand how easy it can be to tell someone God can help them because you genuinely believe it and you are praying for their miracle. But as someone who has also dealt with depression before, I also understand how little meaning these very strong and powerful words can seem to have on the person suffering. I agree, God will help them, but telling them this won’t bring the immediate solutions you’re after, especially depending on their spiritual connection at that exact point in time. Why not pray on their behalf? Or if they’re feeling up to it, pray with them. This brings me to a whole other point but we’ll get into that next time…
I hope that whatever you and your loved ones are going through makes you all stronger. Life has its ups and downs; tests will surely come, but don’t be defeated and don’t give up- instead grow in wisdom, knowledge and strength.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
I’m not an expert, I can do no more than share my own experiences, but for more information and guidance from professionals, click here.