why is it important to distinguish the difference between the two? because the latter is finite focused; the former infinite focused.
so what does that actually mean? when help is offered, it is often intended to be as a once-off or for a specified duration. there is invariably a goal or a clearly defined destination in mind; a problem that needs to be fixed. helping someone also unintentionally communicates that the other person is struggling, that they're deficient or inferior in some way and you have the power to help them; thus a power imbalance ensues.
supporting someone, however, has no pre-defined timeframe. the destination or goal is not clearly stated nor known, nor is it always attainable. supporting someone insinuates a journey, a process, something in which you accompany them on, not help them solve.
often when we talk about mental health, we talk about people needing help. but i want to challenge that notion - what if they don't need help, what if instead all they need is support? support from those around them, from peers, family, from people who are equal to them.
as anyone who has struggled with depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, addiction or other mental health conditions would know, there isn't a 'cure' for these struggles. and there often isn't a 'before' and 'after' - there's just a continual experience; a 'during'.
what we need then, is to let go of this notion of being able to help someone and instead embrace the idea of supporting them, as an equal, as they navigate their life with their struggles. being attached to this notion of helping them will only leave you disappointed - what happens if they don't reach that goal? if they don't get better? if they relapse? have you really helped then? or does it make you feel like a failure?
so instead of offering to help someone, perhaps ask how you can support them. not only will this liberate you from being their sole responsibility, but it will also empower them to overcome their struggles.
so, how are you choosing to support those in your life?