With fewer opportunities to mix with friends and family members in real life, the increased isolation from the coronavirus outbreak can be especially challenging for people with a history of depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, as well as for those who live alone or who are struggling with significant changes to their finances, job or another aspect of their life.
If you have someone in your life who you’re worried might not be coping well, or who might be at risk, don’t be afraid to check in and let them know you’re there. Here are some things to keep in mind when you do.
Signs someone might be struggling
Some of the usual signs of depression or anxiety issues may be more difficult to spot when so many of us are going through big shifts to our day-to-day life. These can include changes to sleep or eating habits, mood, routines and social interactions. One of the most tell-tale signs to look out for is someone becoming more withdrawn or disconnected. If you haven’t heard from someone in a while, reach out and see how they’re going.
Not sure what to say?
The most important thing is to check in, start a conversation, and let the person know that you’re there. You don’t have to have all the answers—and in fact, it’s better to just listen.
- Let them talk, rather than trying to solve their problems or provide advice.
- Ask open ended questions about how they’re feeling.
- Don’t rush to fill the silence or gaps in the conversation, even if it feels a bit awkward.
- Listen as non-judgementally as you can and try not to be critical of their responses.
- Reassure them that you care about them and support is available.
- Encourage them to get help
Gently encourage your friend or loved one to reach out to their GP or a mental health professional. Remind them that many health professionals are now doing online consultations using video, so they can ask about this when they book an appointment.
Don’t take it personally if they don’t want to talk
The person you’re worried about may not feel ready to talk. Don’t pressure them, and try not to feel hurt or offended. Just reassure them that you’ll be there to listen and support them if they’d like to talk another time. Just showing the person that you care and offering support can make a difference, even if it doesn’t feel like it to you.
It can also be frustrating if the person you’re concerned about doesn’t want to seek help, but try to continue to be supportive anyway. If you can, try to find out what’s holding them back and see if you can help—for example if they’ve had negative experiences when they’ve talked to a mental health professional before, it might be useful to help them search for someone who comes with positive recommendations.