Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs . . . who isn’t familiar with those jolly dwarfs whistling while they worked? I still remember the clink-clank of their mining tools, the whistling as they walked home.
The magic of those old Disney movies stay with us.
But what happens when there is no movie-magic, no joy? What happens when the whistling stops?
I recently saw hanging on a wall in a mental health facility a picture of Disney’s seven dwarfs. As I stepped closer to it, the seven singing dwarfs appeared anything but happy.
Each was drawn offering a visual portrayal of seven symptoms most common to depression. As one of the leading “invisible” disabilities, depression is often mislabeled and misunderstood.
Because I struggle with episodic depression, I’ve been on the receiving end of biting remarks and cutting criticism.
My desire in sharing these seven symptoms of those who struggle with depression is to inform and encourage our Christian communities to become Christlike in caring for others.
Christ didn’t label; He listened. Christ didn’t criticize; He cultivated relationships that brought hope and healing. I urge you to learn from, listen to, and love on those who are struggling.
Helping Those Who Struggle
Here are seven common symptoms and suggestions for helping those who struggle:
- Unable to focus
- Mental health/brain compromise
- Inability to metabolize vitamins
Support: Offer assurance of your love and commitment, help him or her to prioritize tasks, go with him or her to meetings with doctors or attorneys and take notes, help to arrange family needs such as carpools and meals.
2. and 3. Lonely and Empty
- Disinterest in hobbies or priorities
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Weight changes
Support: Help those who have lost a loved one. Make a memory book together, plan events in the near future, listen, plan to exercise or get outside together, be a companion by being present, find humor and laugh together, provide a journal.
- Unaccepted loss
- Belief that one can earn acceptance by achievement and accomplishment
- Faulty or dysfunctional cognitive processing
- Unfounded negative self-beliefs
Support: Help harness his or her imagination, offer truths to distorted beliefs, help find a cognitive behavioral therapist, remind this person of his or her strengths and how he or she got through past struggles.
Call to mind that guilt is an emotion and not a truth or fact, listen, affirm his or her honesty or vulnerability, remind the person it was not his or her fault if something traumatic happened in the past.
- Increased heart rate
- Lack of sleep or insomnia
- Unrelenting fear
- Feeling incompetent
- Digestive and autoimmune issues
- Vision problems
- Acting demanding
- Panic attacks
- Hormone imbalance
- Dry mouth
- Obsessive behavior
- Body dysmorphic issues
- Neurotransmitter malfunction
- Poor metabolism of vitamins
Support: Create a safe environment; help find a trauma treatment therapist; attend appointments as a support; affirm strengths that got him or her through abuse/trauma; find support for genetic, metabolic, hormonal, and bodily functions.
Suggest he or she consider taking medication as prescribed by a healthcare professional; put a chronological narrative together by listening and journaling with him or her; pray together; suggest a sleep study; seek to understand; ask how you can help.
- Unstable emotional control
- Poor focus or hyper-focus
- Excessive sweating
- Outbursts of anger
- Flushed or red in the face
- Poor problem-solving skills
- Feeling stuck in a rut
- Negative neuroplasticity—fixed neural pathways
- Victim mentality
Support: Acknowledge his or her anger, empathize with his or her anger when it’s a result of abuse or assault, affirm that change is possible, exercise together, encourage him or her to journal, cultivate healthy coping skills.
Clarify faulty or incongruent thinking and behavior, pray together, seek together the source of his or her anger (anger is a secondary response to hurt and/or pain), practice breathing and meditation techniques.
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of helplessness
- Negative thought patterns
- Unresolved grief
- Acting demanding
- Being overly critical
- Lack of interest in life
- Crying easily
- Poor self-care
- Loses things easily
Support: Recognize the presence of sadness, offer empathy, sit with him or her, don’t try to fix, establish healthy boundaries, take up a hobby together, schedule fun events on the calendar, ask him or her to clarify statements.
Cultivate constructive thought patterns, affirm growth, develop positive life skills, don’t reinforce “pity-parties,” seek cognitive behavioral therapy, pray together, read a book together, get out as a companion for the day, offer to help with life’s demands.
Let Me Hear from You
Mental illness is a huge topic. My hope is that this blog offers a brief introduction to a few of the common struggles, symptoms to spot, and support that brings healing.
If you don’t struggle with mental health challenges, I would love to know how you have implemented these tools in order to help others. For those who do struggle (I’m with you), what area of need is most present for you today?
You can leave a comment by clicking here.