There are many, many lessons to draw from the "Just Listen" series in the Herald this week, which explores serious and ongoing mental distress by talking with those affected.
There is already plenty of advice from supporters of the series - the Mental Health Foundation and Like Minds, Like Mine - which has been formulated and distilled by using some of the sharpest academics and health professionals in the field.
• Just Listen podcast: What is high-functioning depression?
• Just Listen podcast: Experiencing psychosis - 'I thought I was going to die'
• Just Listen podcast: OCD - it's not a fear of dirt
The foundation has five key points for assisting those experiencing mental distress: You don't need to know all the answers, just ask and just listen; name-calling doesn't help; talking about it can feel awkward but do it anyway; and don't leave them out, keep them involved.
Forty-seven per cent of New Zealanders will experience mental illness or distress in their lifetime so it is crucial those around them are equipped to help, if not directly assisting, then at least not making matters more difficult than they have to be.
The 2017/18 New Zealand Health Survey found about 256,000 adults - or 7 per cent of those surveyed - experienced psychological distress in the four weeks before taking part in the survey, indicating a high probability of the person having an anxiety or depressive disorder.
Women were more likely to have experienced psychological distress than men (the rates were 9 per cent and 5 per cent respectively).
More concerning, about 34,000 children (4.3 per cent) aged 2–14 years had been diagnosed with emotional and/or behavioural problems at some time in their life, up from 1.8 per cent in 2006/07. The number of children diagnosed with emotional and/or behavioural problems has more than doubled since 2006/07, when it was about 14,000 children.
Those of us who are not struggling therefore need to be not only aware of those that are, but acting in ways which support recovery, rather than exacerbating the situation.
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One of the key facets of our Just Listen series by Juliette Sivertsen has been to ask each of our subjects who have lived with or experienced mental difficulties to share their tips.
For supporting a person through depression, Philip McDonald and his partner Kate O'Leary suggest: Be empathetic; don't take things personally; find someone you can trust to talk to about the experience; remember that a distressed person can't just snap out of how they feel; let your loved one have their bad days as they will not have the energy to fight every day.
Samantha Adams and her husband Chistopher say: Let a person feel the way they feel, rather than trying to change it; listen and be present; understand their processes and responses to certain situations; on a bad day, take baby steps, which could be as small as helping a loved one move from the bedroom to the couch; and take care of your own mental wellbeing by doing something creative, or seeing friends and family.
Ultimately, whether you want to follow the well-researched and offical advice or that of those who have shared their own experiences, all you need to do is what the series says: Just listen.
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.
• Lifeline : 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline : 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline : 0800 376 633
• Kidsline : 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup : 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline : 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
There are lots of places to get support. For others, click here .