People are, by nature, social beings. It is thanks to the collaboration and mutual support that our species has managed to survive and thrive. We stood together during tough times and fought side by side against nature’s most dangerous predators.
Although today we no longer need to worry about predators, tribal wars, and harsh weather conditions, we still need to protect each other from the ‘dangers’ that can come from within ourselves.
Events such as a breakup, the loss of a loved one, getting fired from your job, marital problems, and many more can cause emotional pain and trigger mental illness.
- Worldwide, over 322 million people are living with depression
- And another 264 million living with anxiety
- Approximately one million people commit suicide each year
- Out of all the people who suffer from anxiety, only 37% receive proper treatment.
- There are twice as many women suffering from anxiety than men
Considering these worrying statistics, the chances of meeting someone who’s in need of emotional support are quite high.
When it comes to mental health and well-being, social support plays a crucial role. Unfortunately, people who struggle with emotional issues don’t always ask for help. And even if they do, there’s a good chance that others might not know how to help them.
Here’s what you need to do if someone tells you they’re not ok (emotionally):
1. Invite them to share their story
When someone’s dealing with an emotional crisis, the first thing you want to do is invite them to share their story.
Opening up about their problems in front of someone who’s willing to listen and help them is a ‘therapeutic’ act that creates a meaningful connection between the two of you.
Furthermore, the mere act of talking about their problems is enough to generate a sense of relief. It’s like a heavyweight has been lifted off their shoulders, all because you expressed an interest in their story and gave them an opportunity to share.
In general, people are reluctant to invite their troubled friends, coworkers, or family members to share their problems. They’re afraid they won’t know what to say or how to react to another person’s emotional troubles.
But the truth is, you don’t have to do anything special. Just ask them to share and take the time to listen.
2. Listen, instead of giving advice
When someone is complaining about a difficult situation, our first instinct is to offer advice or solutions to their problems. Unfortunately, this approach might actually do more harm than good.
People who are going through a crisis experience a lot of emotional pain and suffering. In other words, they might not be in the mood to get actively involved in solving their issues. And while this can cause a lot of frustration on your part, it’s important to be patient and give them the opportunity to solve their problems at their own pace.
This is the point where all you need to do is lend an empathetic ear. Listen to what they have to say and try to put yourself in their shoes to understand precisely what they’re going through.
Offer advice or solutions only if they specifically ask you to.
3. Encourage them to seek professional help
Sometimes, emotional suffering can be the result of an underlying mood disorder. Problems like depression, anxiety, or stress can cause frustration, anger, shame, guilt, and many other unpleasant reactions that can impact our lives in a profoundly negative manner.
Although mental health professionals possess the right skills and tools to offer emotional support and promote well-being, people are still somewhat reluctant when it comes to seeing a therapist.
It seems that even today, the stigma tied to mental illness continues to prevent people from seeing a specialist who can offer proper aid for their emotional troubles. In fact, many people resort to this option only after they reach a critical point and can no longer keep up with their day-to-day hassles.
When someone opens up to you about their emotional struggles, encourage them to see a licensed therapist who’s trained to handle such situations. In fact, you can even offer to help them find a psychologist or counsellor.
4. Learn to spot the signs
You don’t always have to wait for the other person to open up about their problems. Since people are somewhat hesitant to discuss their emotional struggles, perhaps another way to help them is by expressing concern about their well-being.
Instead of waiting for them to ask for help, let them know that they can rely on your support if they ever go through an emotional crisis.
But before you go ahead and offer to help, you need to make sure the person you think needs emotional support is indeed going through a rough patch.
Here are ten telltale signs of a possible emotional problem:
- Inability to focus on routine tasks
- Constant mood swings
- Increases or decreases in appetite
- Unexpected and inexplicable changes in attitude and behaviour
- Social isolation
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- An overall tired and ‘messy’ look
- Lack of interest in activities that they usually enjoy
- Constant complaints about not getting enough sleep
- Spending most of their free time indoors
Sometimes, helping someone who’s not ok (emotionally) means looking for signs of emotional turmoil and making the first move.