We’ve all been there: just how do you help someone with anxiety and depression? Whether it is a family member, a friend, or a spouse, it can be difficult to do the right thing. Given the tricky and often unpredictable cycles of common mental health problems, is there anything at all one can do to help a loved one in pain? Here are some ways to start:
Communication is key
Numerous studies have shown that one of the leading causes of mental health problems in people of all ages is loneliness. We simply do not talk to each other enough. Despite the fact that we seem to be always connected to the world via social media, it is real interaction that counts. Sometimes an honest conversation in which you do most of the listening can really help someone with anxiety and depression.
People with anxiety and depression often report being judged as one of their greatest fears. This fear is the reason why we still talk so little about mental health, especially in social groups and workplaces. Before trying to help someone with anxiety and depression, give them space and opportunity to express how they are feeling. Avoid putting excessive pressure on them with phrases such as ‘I just want you to be happy!’, or ‘what are you doing about this?’
Find an activity
The power of physical activity to heal our minds and achieve Mindfulness is not to be underestimated when trying to help someone with anxiety and depression. Neuroscientists have known this for a while: when we exert ourselves physically, we produce serotonin, which can reduce depression. You can really help someone by sharing physical activity with them, whether it’s going for a swim, or even for a simple walk in the park. Regularity is important here: try to get them out at least once a week.
Anxiety or depression? Know the difference!
There is still much confusion surrounding common mental health problems. Although the ways you can help someone with anxiety and depression involve similar approaches, there are also important differences. Someone who suffers from depression is likely to be feeling low in energy and uninterested in everyday things. They will most likely benefit from a ‘pick-me-up’ – a party, for example, or a surprise visit from a group of friends. This approach may not work so well with someone with anxiety. It might be best to get them to do something low-key and relaxing, such as watching a movie together.
Get them to seek help
This last point is probably most important in the long run: it is important to be kind to yourself and remember that there is only so much you can do as a non-professional. Only a fully qualified, experienced therapist can really help someone if their mental health problems are long-standing or severe. Encourage your loved one to seek this vital form of help, but tread cautiously. Never threaten or issue ultimatums, and be prepared for a long process. Whatever you do, don’t give up!