Today marks World Health Day, an annual awareness campaign started by the World Health Organization (WHO), and this year’s theme is all about depression, and for very good reason. According to new statistics, depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.
The devastating figures from WHO show than more than 300 million people are currently living with depression, and that’s up over 18 per cent since 2005.
Lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with a fear of stigma, prevent many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives.
Said WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan: “These new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to re-think their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency that it deserves.” [WHO]
For someone living with depression, talking to a person they trust is often the first step towards treatment and recovery. It all comes back to those common themes of sharing and safe spaces.
Sharing your story is an important part of the healing process, and we feel comfortable sharing when we feel safety that the person listening is present and receiving the information well. Having a conversation is a great first step, and the listener’s role in a conversation is just as vital as the person sharing.
If you are taking on the role of a listener, it’s important to create a safe space for the person who is sharing, your presence in the conversation is important to the process.
“Try to put yourself in their shoes, listen to not only their words but their body language. Ask them ahead of time if they want you to try and solve it or just to listen.” — Kim Barthel
Take pride in your role as a trusted listener for the person sharing with you, and here are some tips on how you can be a great listener:
- Be present: simple things like making eye contact, and not turning your attention to your phone or people passing by, will make all the difference to the person who is sharing with you.
- Be available: being a hungry listener means that you are genuinely interested in what the person has to say. Your responses and reactions to what the person is sharing with you, conveys your interest to learn more from them.
- Clarify: if you don’t understand something, always ask for clarification. This will convey your genuine interest, and also ensure that you are taking in all the correct information in a manner you can comprehend.
- Be porous: Porous listening refers to the extent to which you are open to receiving new information. It signals someone open to deeper connections and intimacy with the person with whom they are sharing.
– Written by Amber Craig