Fear, anxiety, and sadness are all a part of the human condition. While most people experience these emotions to some degree throughout their lives, it is common for feelings of anxiety and depression to take over at times.
Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health conditions in America: some forty million US adults struggle with anxiety each year. In addition, depression and anxiety are often connected. Suffice to say, you likely know someone who is currently battling an anxiety disorder, depression, or a combination of the two.
While the statistics may feel disheartening, there is hope. Below are just a few steps you can take to help care for others and help them tackle common mental health problems head on.
Although strides have been made in recent years, mental health can still be a taboo topic. Not many people are willing to open up about their struggles with it, and they may be afraid of appearing weak or burdening those around them. However, to help ensure your loved one gets the support they need, you should understand how common these feelings are.
Organizations like the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) offer a wealth of resources, statistics, and other information on common mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, and PTSD. They also are great places to start if you’re looking to find a professional reference for a loved one or learn more about a specific mental health condition.
Keep an open mind
Mental health disorders can manifest through changes in social behavior. For example, a person suffering from depression might become more reclusive and unwilling to participate in activities they used to enjoy. This can make it challenging for you to offer support, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. NAMI suggests maintaining an open and honest line of communication and showing support through listening instead of dwelling on their behavioral changes. The organization also offers peer-to-peer support for both people with anxiety and depression and their loved ones.
As mentioned above, behavioral changes can make it difficult to feel and stay connected if a friend or relative is dealing with a mental health issue. What may seem like a minor inconvenience or passing fear to you could be crippling for someone dealing with anxiety or depression, so it’s important to practice patience, consideration, and compassion. Checking in with them can make a world of difference. Researchers at Columbia University recommend talking points including the following, but keep in mind your loved one’s circumstances and how much you currently know about the state of their mental health.
- How are you feeling?
- I care about you. Is there anything I can do to help?
- I know ____ is happening in your life. Is there anything you want to talk about?
These questions are a helpful place to start. However, to provide the best level of support, you should also practice empathy and proper listening techniques by pausing before responding, putting yourself in their shoes, and allowing them to lead the conversation.
There are many factors, both internal and external, that contribute to a person’s mental health. But there are steps you can take to help others manage symptoms of anxiety and depression. Get to know the common warning signs of these disorders, such as restlessness and irritability for anxiety and a loss of energy and appetite for depression, so you can act early and try to help stop their progression.
It’s also imperative to practice what you preach. After all, if you’re going to help loved ones prevent or combat these disorders, you need to take care of your own mental health first. So try to make sure that both you and your loved ones are taking positive self-health measures, such as getting ample rest, eating properly, and participating in fun activities. Poor self-care can quickly lead to mild feelings of anxiety and depression that can grow over time. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if symptoms creep up or become an impediment to daily life, and encourage others to do the same if it happens to them.
While mental health can be a complicated topic to tackle, it’s something that affects everyone in some way. The good news is that no one needs to be alone in their struggle with it. The best way to make progress with mental health disorders is to talk about them and show support for those who need it.
If you or someone you know is struggling with feelings of anxiety or depression, be sure to consult a professional for proper care.