The Unseen Value of Depression Support from Strangers
Over the years, I’ve always been open about my feelings. Whether with family, friends, or even strangers, I’ve never shied away from expressing my emotions. However, a recent conversation with my brother-in-law about my midlife crisis made me realise. I often prefer seeking advice from strangers rather than family members or friends.
Why, you may ask? Well, it’s not that my loved ones don’t understand me. In fact, they often believe they know me very well. But the reality is, I tend to keep people at arm’s length. This is not because I’m a closed book but because I value the impartiality of distance.
In the last few years, I’ve become increasingly disconnected from my family and friends, especially after hitting a low point. I realised that their emotional involvement, while well-intentioned, often felt overwhelming. It could even hamper my progress and potentially pull me deeper into despair.
In contrast, speaking to random strangers has been a refreshing experience. They serve as a sounding board, absorbing my verbal outpourings without offering personal views or judgements. They view things objectively, without any back history to cloud their understanding. This impartiality, this ability to provide depression support from strangers, has been a lifeline for me.
This is not to say I don’t value my family and friends. But sometimes, placing myself at the centre and doing what’s suitable for me means seeking support outside my immediate limited circle of love. Just like a therapist, strangers listen without telling me what to do. They don’t pass judgement, and they don’t use their knowledge about me to dictate my actions.
In the following sections, we’ll flirt with this topic, exploring the role of family and friends in providing support. And how sometimes, the most effective depression support from strangers can come from the most unexpected places.
When Family and Friends Fit the Bill
Depression support from strangers may offer me solace. Still, family and friends often play a crucial role in providing depression support. Their presence, understanding, and empathy can be a beacon of hope amid despair. They can provide a safe space for expressing feelings, sharing worries, and seeking advice.
However, not everyone finds comfort in the support of family and friends. For some, the emotional involvement of close ones can feel overwhelming. It can lead to feelings of guilt, fear of judgement, or the pressure to ‘put on a brave face’.
In such cases, talking to strangers can provide a sense of relief. Strangers, unburdened by personal ties, can offer an unbiased ear. They can allow individuals to express their feelings without fear of judgement or repercussions. But is there any research that supports such feelings? Let’s explore.
Depression Support from Strangers, Does Research Support My Views?
I’d be the first to acknowledge that we can often find evidence to support our viewpoints. So, trust me when I say that my intention isn’t to force my insights upon you. Instead, I’d like to see if there are published studies where others share my perspective.
It seems my feelings are indeed echoed by others. A study examining how men and women with depression articulate their emotional distress offers some enlightening insights. This research also investigates whether there are gender differences or similarities in the strategies respondents found useful when engaging with health professionals. It appears to support my viewpoint.
The study found that both men and women with depression often struggle to articulate their mental health problems. This difficulty impacts their ability to communicate effectively with health professionals.
Interestingly, the most novel finding amongst a minority was that some respondents preferred ‘talking to a stranger’ over having a close personal relationship with health professionals. They felt that the personal relationship could act as a barrier to communication.
This finding suggests that speaking with strangers, who are not emotionally involved in the individual’s personal life, can sometimes be more beneficial for people dealing with depression. It allows them to express their feelings without fearing judgment or emotional repercussions.
Could this be what’s subtly influencing my thoughts? Am I hesitant to reveal my perceived weaknesses to a ‘family member or friend’? Could it be out of pride or fear that it might alter our relationship? As a result, do I find it easier to discuss my issues with an anonymous stranger, someone detached from my daily life?
Fascinating, as there could well be truth in it. Depression can make us guard our ‘face’, our self-image, during therapy. This is according to a study by Pollock K. (2007). This ‘face-saving’ can limit therapy’s effectiveness.
Why? We might see our distress as private, not for medical eyes. Here, talking to strangers can help. They don’t know us, so we can share without fear of judgement. In short, strangers can provide a safe space for those with depression. It allows free expression without the pressure of maintaining a ‘face’. This could make therapy more effective. The bonus? It’s free! This is the essence of depression support from strangers.
Embracing the Solace of Strangers
Reflecting on my journey, I realise my openness about my feelings has been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it has allowed me to connect with others on a deep level. Conversely, it has led to a disconnect, especially with family and friends. Over the years, I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to the impartiality and objectivity of strangers, especially during my lowest points.
The emotional involvement of my loved ones, while well-intentioned, often feels overwhelming. It sometimes hampers my progress, pulling me deeper into despair. In contrast, speaking to random strangers is a refreshing experience. They serve as a sounding board, absorbing my verbal outpourings without offering personal views or judgements. This ability to provide depression support from strangers has been a lifeline for me.
This is not to undermine the value of family and friends. They play a crucial role in providing depression support. Their presence, understanding, and empathy can be a beacon of hope amid despair. However, for some of us, the emotional involvement of close ones can feel overwhelming. It can lead to feelings of guilt, fear of judgement, or the pressure to ‘put on a brave face’. In such cases, talking to strangers can provide a sense of relief.
This journey has taught and is teaching me the value of speaking with strangers. They are not emotionally involved in my personal life. It allows me to express my feelings without fearing judgment or emotional repercussions. It’s a subtle influence but one that has had a profound impact on my life.
My passage has been one of self-discovery and acceptance. I’ve learned to embrace strangers’ support and value their impartiality and objectivity. Learned to guard my ‘face’ and self-image during therapy. I’ve learned to see my distress as private, not for medical eyes. And most importantly, I’ve learned to listen to myself, trust my instincts, and do what’s right for me.
Depression support from strangers has been a lifeline for me. It has allowed me to express myself freely, without fear of judgement. It has provided a safe space to explore my feelings and thoughts. And while it may not be the conventional route, it’s a path that has led me towards healing and self-discovery.
- C. Emslie, D. Ridge, S. Ziebland, and K. Hunt, (24 July 2007). ‘Exploring men’s and women’s experiences of depression and engagement with health professionals: more similarities than differences? A qualitative interview study‘. BMC Family Practice, 8:43. [Accessed 03 July 2023]
- Pollock K, (2007) ‘Maintaining face in the presentation of depression: constraining the therapeutic potential of the consultation.’ Health (London). 2007 Apr;11(2):163-80. [Accessed 03 July 2023]