It’s been a tough year. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted nearly every aspect of our lives, and it’s taking a toll on Americans’ mental health. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the results of a new survey this week, reporting that U.S. adults are dealing with “considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19.”
The survey also found higher reports of poor mental health outcomes, increased substance abuse, and elevated suicidal ideation in younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers. People are struggling, and many of them are not getting the help they need.
You probably already knew this. And part of the reason you use Sanvello is because you know how important it is to take care of yourself — to learn the crucial strategies for protecting your mental health.
But how do we help take care of the people in our lives when they might be struggling, too? Below we lay out some helpful tips. (These tips are for non-urgent situations. If you believe someone is in immediate danger to themselves or others, call 911.)
1) Check in.
Sometimes it’s obvious when a friend is going through something, but many times it’s difficult to tell. We live in a culture that promotes “keeping it together” and “toughing it out.” Checking in doesn’t have to mean scheduling a phone call and saying, “I’m worried about your mental health.” Checking in is more about being there and being ready to listen.
Some people will open up immediately, others will take time. Often, just expressing care for a person can help alleviate some of the stress they’re feeling, helping them to feel less alone.
2) Offer resources, not diagnoses.
It can be tempting to label our friends’ issues, especially when we’ve been through therapy ourselves and feel an intimate familiarity with some of the terms, but save the diagnosing for the professionals.
Instead, offer some resources. You can share with them the Crisis Text Line, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or something like NotOK, which acts as an SOS to people you trust. If their problems are less severe, here are a few other options to share:
- If they have a job, does their employer offer an Employee Assistance Program? Many of these programs will offer mental health counseling.
- If they’re open to therapy, you can offer to help them prepare questions to ask potential providers. (If you’re not sure where to start, we have a guide for finding a therapist, what to expect, and how to get the most out of it.)
- Share the resources that have worked for you. Whether that’s Sanvello, a personal self-care routine, or something else.
- Help them create their own Mental Health Emergency Kit so the next time they’re feeling low, they have some actionable steps they can take
3) Share how you’re feeling.
It’s easier to open up when someone else opens up first. Misery doesn’t love company—it loves empathy. Being honest about emotions like stress, overwhelm, and fear can help dissolve some of the shame others feel about having those feelings.
Talking about the steps you’ve taken on your mental health journey can also empower other people to take those same steps. Think of it like directions. If someone said, “how do you drive from New York to California?” and the response was, “oh you just keep driving West. You’ll get there eventually,” while that’s more or less true, it isn’t very helpful. When directions are more specific, including roads, landmarks, alternate routes, and some fun places to stop, it helps the person better prepare for the journey.
Our mental health journeys are unique, but sharing can help others imagine theirs.
4) Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
It’s a wonderful thing to be a kind and supportive friend, but remember to take care of yourself. Prioritize your self-care, and respect the boundaries and practices you’ve put in place for your mental health.