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Down in the Dumps Blog Part 3: Three Ways to Build Your Support Network When You Have Depression
Hello and welcome to my blog series: Down in the Dumps. This blog series was created to provide tips and suggestions for people who have been diagnosed with depression. As someone who struggles with depression on a daily basis, in this blog I will be providing tips on a variety of subjects including counselling, sleep, food, exercise, self-care and more.
As November is the month of mental health and suicide prevention for men, I thought it was important to talk about how to get help and support when you are depressed. While the stigma around mental illness is slowly disappearing, the suicide rate in Canada is still really high with suicide being the second leading cause of death for Canadians between the ages of 15 and 34 . No matter your gender though, it is so important to reach out if you need help.
What is a support network?
Now you might be thinking, "I don't think I have anyone I can reach out to." Believe me, I've been there. That's why it is so important to build a support network. What is a support network, you ask? Well, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, a support network is "a group of people who provide emotional and practical help to someone in serious difficulty". A support network is beneficial because if you can have a couple of supportive people you can reach out to, then it will be easier to get through the lows of your depression. If you feel alone with no one you can reach out to, here are three ways to build your support network when you have depression.
- Reach out to family and friends
I know when I go through an episode of depression, the last thing I want to do is reach out to friends and family because I feel like a burden. But I am here to tell you that this is just the depression talking. While depression often feels like this heavy shame you carry with you, your friends and family care about you and love you, so try to reach out to them when you are struggling. According to DepressionHurts.ca, a great way to decide who to add to your support system are one or two people who you trust and who make you feel safe (i.e. your best friend, your mom, your sister etc.).
Now I want to make something clear: not all friends and family members should be adding to your support network. If you have friends or family members that criticize and judge you for your depression, then you should NOT be adding to them to your support network as they will most likely make you feel worse. However, if you have friends and family members who are caring and understanding of your depression, then invite them to your support network.
- Take up or revisit a hobby
Okay now I realize that a common symptom of depression is loss in interests and hobbies I don't know about you, but when I'm depressed, I often experience the weekend blues where I sit at home alone all day, doing nothing. So even though taking up a new hobby or revisiting an old hobby may seem hard and unenjoyable, by joining a hobby or interest group, you can meet a group of people who have the same interests as you, who can help you stay motivated and who can even help you get through hard times. Whether you want to try out an artsy hobbies,like a knitting circle or pottery class, or a more athletic hobby like a team sport or indoor rock-climbing, , there are lots of ways to meet people who share the same interests and who can potentially be added to your support network.
- Sign up for a support group
If you feel like you have no friends or family members that you can invite to your support network and you have no interest in meeting people through a hobby, a great next step is to join a support group. As someone who has been a member of a couple support groups, it can feel a little scary talking about your feelings to a group of strangers at first. But by listening to other people express their hardships and struggles with depression, you might be able to connect and relate to some of their stories. While I personally have not met any good friends in a support group (you might be different though), just the fact that you are consistently meeting up with a group of like-minded people who are or have been where you are and who can give you advice and guidance for coping is an incredible thing.
While the stigma of mental illness is slowly starting to be broken down, the reality is that people with depression often still feel afraid to reach out for help, especially men, as we are often ashamed and embarrassed that asking for help makes us seem weak. The truth is that everyone needs a little help sometimes and asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Whether you have a family member who you trust or friend that has the same interests or experiences as you, do not be afraid to ask them to lean on them in hard times. Depression is a very tough and painful thing to get through, but it becomes a little less painful when you have a support network who has got your back.
Remember – you are strong, you are worthy, and you are capable of amazing things.
Resources to help you find a support group near you:
Anika is a student at Western University studying media studies and creative writing. After being diagnosed with anxiety, depression and a skin picking disorder in her first-year of university, she became an advocate for mental health awareness. When she is not studying or writing, she can be found baking, scrap-booking, playing video games, or watching movies and TV shows.
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