Lets just say you are sitting at home. Ordinary Saturday morning. Except this ordinary day has changed. Its not the normal day you had planned and your anxiety is driven because you are concerned. You put the phone down and your friend tells you they have been diagnosed with a mental illness. To keep with the theme we will say they have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, or the newly found name Emotional Dysregulation disorder. Just stop your imagery there and I will give you a few options.
Firstly, our first automatic response in a society driven by technology is to research something on Google we no nothing about. Everyone's guilty of it, even I have been in the past. What happens when I tell you there are other reliable sources out there that are more reliable then Google itself? I know, crazy to think hey. But listen to some valid points I am about to raise when it comes to the dangers of resorting to Google when it comes to mental illness.
Wikipedia's facts about Diagnosis of Mental Illness are accurate, but dont always give you answers how to help someone. I am presuming most people look up Google with the intent of understanding and helping others, rather than to boost and comfort their own egos. So you have found out the symptoms and such attached to the disorders which can be a positive start. But an hour later you are knee deep in scrolling and you have found the 'I hate you, dont leave me' article which was written in the late 80's. These are outdated representations of Borderline, as its the year 2017 and a whole lot more research and steps forward have been put into place.
Now you are finding articles written by ex lovers of BPD (the best thing to do is to never contact them again!! They ARE crazy). You see, its these attitudes that contribute to creating stigma and barriers to the understanding of BPD, and mental illness in general. When you read things like that, you are convinced that you cant offer any contribution into the person sufferings recovery. So the offer you then give them becomes negative by your blind eye and ignorance.You can be a person to contribute positively instead, as these attitudes its what stunts the person moving forward. Mental illness needs a better understanding from a community on a whole. The more people start learning, the more a positive ripple effect can be built. You are probably wondering how that is possible? Or how you can help if you cant rely on these outdated articles and these one minded views?
Okay, if you are convinced that all these negative articles you have read is completely how this person is and there is nothing going to change your mind, then its probably for the best the person with the illness doesn't have such a damaging individual around them. If you are someone like myself who cares about every individuals feelings and well being, then you will consider these following options.
Listening- By now, I am hoping the people who read this can agree that not everyones mental illness experience is exactly the same. Behaviours can be similar and they can relate, but no ones experience is going to be the same as the others. So the key to helping is to listen attentively to the person who may be experiencing an episode or opening up to someone about their struggles and what helps them. I can a hundred per cent say someone who is in that state is petrified of the other person seeing them like that, so this is the next step to helping someone.
No Judgement- You have now seen a side to your friend that you didn't know was there. You can be the human being who throws up their arms and rejects the idea of even considering helping this person because of x,y and z. But then you can be the strong person who sits with them regardless if they have had a change of behaviour. Talk them through it, ask them what they are experiencing to change like this. Some people may be experiencing psychosis. If you feel in danger, then medical professionals can assist. If you can stay with them and calm them, then that will help them and the next day still treat them the same. You may be scared but you have to remember in these moments their behaviours are beyond their control. That is where they dont have a choice.
No Isolation- I think this is an important step to make someone keep going, especially after a suicide attempt. I know I have had people cut me off after attempts, which they are entitled to for what ever reason they have, mainly self driven. But if this is the case, you will have absolutely no idea the pain you will leave someone in if you leave them behind like that. The way you leave situations is a show of character. To not acknowledge the devastating impact a failed attempt can have on an individual is ignorance at its best. No matter what you say, any genuine and authentic person will check in on someone after they have tried to take their own life. This creates relief for the individual as well as support. No matter what circumstance, sometimes all it takes is a small gesture to make a huge and effective impact on someone in need.
No isolation is also making them feel included when they are ready to be discharged from hospital after their attempt. Organise a catch up with friends, to take them out for food or coffee, go for a walk or just visit them at home. Small things like this aren't hard to organise. No one should be treated differently after an episode has happened when they are mentally ill. No matter if google has told you they have done this to 'manipulate' you, which you will find majority of people who are mentally ill are not capable of doing that in a irrational mind.
These are just small steps and you can start to apply them anytime. The main key points I am trying to make is if Google says something, and you live by the motto "well thats what google told me to do so Google must be right", then that small mind of yours wont have any room to help reduce stigma and myths surrounding BPD/mental illness in general. Here are some links to helpful websites that can assist you in expanding your perspectives when it comes to mental illness. The Mighty is one I write for and I find comfort in a lot, as the writers are speaking about personal experiences. The more you read up on individuals experiences with their own illness, the better understandings you will gain.