Mental Health — How You Can Support Your Crew [+Ask For Help!]
It can be hard to accept or come to terms with having anxiety or depression, let alone to find the courage to be able to tell people about it. Remember, you do NOT have to tell anyone, some people are more open to sharing their experiences, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be open about yours. There is no right or wrong number of people who you have to share your story with — the most important thing is to talk to someone [+ here are a few suggestions].
It should go without saying, but it doesn’t hurt to explain to your family that this is not their fault. Parents in particular can think they did something wrong or should be at fault for “how you turned out” — this one of the biggest stigmas with mental illness. It’s important for everyone to understand + agree that this is nobody’s fault.
It might seem scary to tell someone you’re seeing that you have a mental illness, but if your relationship is heading long-term, it is something your partner should know. For instance, if you’re S.O knows your triggers or what calms you down, they will feel prepared if an attack happens. This *heads-up* will be better for both of you in the long run.
Your friends can be your biggest support system. Start the conversation by letting them know you need to talk about something serious — “I need to talk to you about something + it’s really important.” College//your early twenties is such a pivotal time in your life ++ your peers may even be experiencing the same thoughts + emotions as you are. Even if they can’t relate, confiding in your closest friends can help you feel less alone + avoid feeling like you are “hiding” something, which can amplify your anxiety//depression.
SUGGEST WAYS THEY CAN SUPPORT YOU
With anyone, ask them what questions they have — negative or misunderstood views about mental illness stems from confusion about it. Sometimes a little education can give people the clarity + understanding to be open to supporting you.
Everyone has different needs, think about what makes you feel better —
- Do you find comfort in touch? Ask for a hug, or in contrast, tell a person not to touch you
- Do you find comfort in company? Ask them to come over + bring friends if needed, or tell them to let you be + give you your space
- Do you like to talk about things? Encourage them to *encourage* you to talk, or have them encourage you to journal or write your thoughts down
HOW TO HELP YOUR LOVED ONE
Ultimately, everyone is different + it will take some amount of trial + error to determine how to best support your loved ones experiencing mental health challenges. The best advice we can give is to show compassion + patience.
#1] Listen + Support
It sounds cliche, but listening really is one of the best things you can do to support someone. Sometimes they might just need to vent + don’t really need advice — don’t feel like you need to make suggestions [most of us aren’t even qualified to do that]. Instead, offer support + let them know you can help in anyway they ask. It can also help to normalize any types of thoughts you can relate to. If someone with anxiety is confiding in you, let them know if they are experiencing any thoughts or fears that you can relate to! There are so many types of anxiety-based thoughts that people with anxiety disorders experience that even relatively non-anxious people also experience occasionally
#2] Ask Questions + Communicate
Everyone reacts to anxiety or panic attacks differently + there’s no one *right* way to help someone. Ask them what their triggers are or what they have found to help them when an attack or episode occurs. It’s a lot easier to ask how you can help + be prepared ahead of time rather than trying to ask in the middle of an attack.
It is also important to actively communicate that communicate that you don’t see their anxiety as a weakness, character flaw, or a sign of them being incompetent
#3] Educate Yourself
It’s hard to help someone if you don’t know what they’re going through + it may be hard for them to even explain it to you. Do your own research [this can be a start] to find out warning signs, symptoms, or just to better understand what they’re going through. It will mean so much to your loved one when they know you’ve taken the time to try to understand them. There are so many different types of anxiety, so reading into their specific type can really help you figure out how to best support them.
Sometimes people need a little push to get help [help that you can’t provide]. While you shouldn’t force someone to seek treatment or speak to someone, some people can benefit from some encouragement. Knowing when to give a little push and knowing when to be patient can be tough. It will take trial + error to find the sweet spot. It’s important to remember that even if they take things out on you, it can just be the illness + not actually them.
The most important thing to remember whether you or a loved one have anxiety is reaching out + just being there for someone can make a huge difference.