In today’s world especially, mental health issues are on the rise and are heightened by multiple factors. While social media and the likes have helped spread awareness on the importance of mental health, there are still many people suffering in the silence and remain in the dark not knowing and/ or unable to navigate through the storm.
When we say mental health, we’re talking about the overall, holistic constitution of our well-being – a balanced emotional state, healthy psychological and sociological dispositions and overall personal and social wellness. Just like how it becomes harder to perform when we’re down with a fever, for people with mental health issues, it’s just as difficult to perform and navigate through society. They are often bereft and left out and resort to cycles of self-harm, self-doubt and self-blame.
Nobody is to blame for a person having mental health issues. There are not one, but many factors that lead to an imbalance of chemicals in our brain, resulting in inexplicable inner turmoil. Reasons could be due to a difficult upbringing, traumas seen and experienced at some point in life, other physical ailments, or even just poor nutrition. These deficiencies affect the way we relate to the world and ourselves, how we handle our triggers and stress-points, how we perceive the world and also the way we consume food. However, the hope in all this is that there is a way out. Mental illness is not the end of one’s future or the world, and if detected and treated early, one can go on to live a full and healthy life.
Our mental health is something we carry with us from childhood to adolescence and throughout our adulthood, so even if all else fails, having a healthy mental disposition goes a long way in living a full and satisfying life.
Many of us have at some point come in contact with someone suffering with poor mental health and sometimes even a mental illness. Unfortunately, there isn’t a rulebook out there on how to deal with such situations. Some of us who understand and are familiar with such terminologies may empathise with a person suffering, but there are many others who may try, hastily, to speed up the process of recovery, making the whole situation counter-productive. It’s important to approach the topic of mental health and mental illness with sensitivity and caution, rather than add fuel to a fire that’s already raging inside. There is no dearth of information out there when it comes to managing low mental states.
Here we detail how you can help a loved one cope with poor mental health.
1. Stay Informed & Aware
Someone close to you or someone you know could at some point today or tomorrow come face to face with similar issues, so it’s important to take the effort and stay informed.
For starters, it’s very important to know the difference between poor mental health and mental illness. Even though we often use poor mental health and mental illness interchangeably, it’s important to remember that they are not one and the same. An individual suffering from poor mental health can go through short or long periods of poor physical, social and mental wellbeing and come out of it, but yet not be diagnosed with a mental illness. An individual suffering from mental illness, on the other hand, would need constant care, attention and oftentimes medication to keep their condition in check. Untreating and ignoring the symptoms of poor mental health can often lead to a chronic mental illness, and that is why it is important to have awareness and be aware of the options available to a person with mental illness or poor mental health so that it can be treated early on and they can go on to live full, healthy and happy lives.
2. Be Slow To Speak and Quick To Listen
Sensitivity makes a huge difference to a person suffering from poor mental health. One does not need to know the A-Z of poor mental health or mental illness in order to be sensitive. What we lack in today’s world are enough ears to listen, and eyes to truly observe the happenings around us. We’re so caught up in our worlds and day-to-day activities that even if a person may show symptoms of poor mental health in front of our eyes, it often goes unnoticed. The truth is that almost every second person you see has at some point gone through poor mental health, and many of them may not have the strength to talk about it because the pressures of “be happy” often supersede the expectation of “being real”. People want and expect happiness to be a language because happiness is easy to deal with. The moment a conversation turns intense when someone makes mention of their mental struggle, the instinct in us is to comfort them, but also to get them to forget their pain in that moment rather than just lend a listening ear.
According to WHO, close to 800 000 people die by suicide every year; that’s one person every 40 seconds. For each suicide, there are more than 20 suicide attempts. That’s a staggering number that can be greatly reduced if people are more attentive, empathetic, and curious to really understand what one is going through. One of the best things you can do for a person who is suffering is to lend a listening ear rather than offer them the false promise that “everything will be alright”. Be reachable and approachable as often as you can, as it gives them the comfort that there is someone to talk to should things get difficult to process.
3. Help Them Seek Professional Help
For many of us, it’s hard to help someone suffering from poor mental health because we often don’t have the right words to say. But the truth is that we needn’t always have the right words to say. There’s a reason why there’s therapy and expert advice on these matters. When you meet someone affected by poor mental health, while you can lend a listening ear, you can also go the extra mile to recommend therapy to them. For those who feel stigmatised by their own poor mental health, having open conversations can help change their perspective so that they are open to receiving help from the right kind of people. Just like with any other doctor, therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists spend years studying the makeup of the mind and the causes of poor mental health, and approach the issue with much sensitivity, targeted help and of course, when needed, have the expertise to suggest medication.
Being a good listener is great, but taking the extra effort to guide them to the right kind of help would be one of the best things you can do for them. It helps to keep in mind that a side effect of the condition is often lethargy and hopelessness, and in such contexts, finding a therapist so that they don’t have to go through the stress of finding one, takes away a huge part of the pain of reaching out.
4. Normalise Having Conversations on Mental Health
It’s important to make mental health a conversation around the table. All games and fun aside, normalising these situations goes a long way in simplifying the burden of seeking help. For a lot of people, making mention of their mental health disposition is a matter of shame because of how it might be received. Instead of treating it as a conversation that is to be had in secret, let’s bring these topics out in the open and make them a part of normal conversations, because at some point or the other we’re all going to experience the ups and downs of life. And it is a comfort knowing that there is a space at the table for it rather than keeping it under wraps due to shame or fear of being ostracised.
At any point, whether at their high or their low, people should be welcomed at the table. The table isn’t and shouldn’t be reserved for just the ones who are happy and well, but for all colours on the spectrum.