Are you noticing some changes in your friend or family member and have concerns that they may be experiencing a mental illness? You are not alone, with Beyond Blue stating that up to 1-in-4 Australians will develop an anxiety disorder, and 1-in-7 will experience depression. There are ways that you can tactfully approach your loved one with your concerns, offer them support and assist them in finding professional help.
Signs of depression or anxiety can vary, however, there are some general signs that can point to mental distress. There may be significant changes in their personality, such as sudden avoidance of social situations, appearing tearful or unusually quiet, or being easily irritated. You may notice changes in their appearance or dramatic changes in their energy levels and eating patterns. They may seem to be fearful, less hopeful about the future, talk about feelings of guilt and worthlessness or suicide.
How do I bring up the subject?
This is up to you and will depend on how confident you feel in the relationship. Discretion is always the best. Simply asking how they are feeling can be a start, but sometimes you need to ask the same question twice. This shows that you want to understand what they are experiencing. Your friend can be embarrassed at the thought of being unwell and covering up mental illness is common. If they do share their feelings, thank them for confiding in you and be prepared to listen.
The next question should be "What can I do to help?" Anxiety and depression can stop people from completing the simplest of tasks. Offer to throw on a load of laundry, help them by grabbing some groceries, or running them a bath. Encourage them to attend their therapy sessions or offer to drive them if they cannot find the motivation.
Taking care of yourself
Supporting someone can take a toll on your mental wellbeing. It is important you practise self-care to ensure that you stay well enough to continue support. Self-care can be in the form of setting clear boundaries on when you can be contacted. It may be worth setting up a formal support network of others to assist your friend. Learning about your friend's illness can also assist you in understanding and managing your feelings and recognise the signs of emotional burnout.
Where to from here?
Never attempt to tackle this issue on your own. There is professional support out there to help your loved one and you can assist them in linking into the most suitable local service for them. Be patient and try not to take things personally. Remember to be kind to yourself, and know that every small effort you may make is making a big difference to your friend in need.
In case of emergencies, please call LifeLine on 131114 or 000 for urgent care.
Upcoming free mental health workshops at Ararat Wellness Centre, every Saturday 10am-12 noon.
15th Understanding the stages of Grief
22nd Improve your Sleep
29th Improve your Self-Esteem