1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health issue throughout the year.
If that isn't a stat to make us think, then I'm not sure what will.
Someone we all know is likely to be suffering in some way. Over the last few years, the conversation and awareness of mental health issues has certainly been raised; but it's up to all of us to be there for friends, family, colleagues or team mates.
We need to find time to have a conversation with someone about mental health; either our own mental health or supporting someone else that may be struggling.
If someone is struggling with their mental health, it can take several different forms. Before we can look to start the conversation, it's useful to be identify if someone is indeed struggling with their mental health.
Depression and anxiety are two of the most common factors that will affect someone's mental health.
Depression is more than feeling down or fed up for a few days. Depression can last for weeks, months and maybe even years. It's certainly not something you can just 'snap out of.'
Someone feeling depressed my lose interest in things they have previously been passionate about, feeling hopelessness or unhappiness. Physical symptoms may range from a loss of sex drive, constantly feeling tired, being unable to sleep to a loss of appetite.
The trigger to becoming depressed can be a traumatic event such as the loss of a loved one, losing your job or giving birth.
When someone has anxiety, it can present itself as feeling uneasy, fearful or worried. Some of these emotions can be manageable in the short term; for example before an exam. However, if these feelings persist it can start to have an affect on the overall mental health of an individual.
Genralised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a condition when someone feels anxious about a wide range of situations; rather than one specific situation such as agoraphobia or claustrophobia for example. Dizziness, restlessness, an inability to concentrate or a quick heart rate are all potential symptoms of GAD.
As with depression, anxiety can be treated with the support of a medical professional. Starting the conversation, is the first step in helping someone cope with any mental health issues they maybe experiencing. Though you are unlikely to be a qualified professional experienced in handling anxiety or depression, being there for the person to start the conversation is invaluable.
Having a conversation is the starting point to improving our mental health. It's not likely to be an easy conversation, but certainly can make a big difference in supporting each other. Historically, men have been poor at talking about how they are feeling or what they are thinking. It's initiatives such as Time to Talk that help keep the importance of mental health at the forefront of our minds.
As I mention above, talking about our mental health is unlikely to be an easy conversation. So, I've outlined some tips that can make having the conversation a little bit easier.
Asking questions will help the person open up and outline what they are going through. To help, try asking open questions, and ones that do not seem judgemental; and then listen.
Try to find a time and place without too many external distractions. It can be easier to talk whilst you are doing something else, like going for a walk or cooking, rather than sitting face to face.
Talking in itself can be a powerful tool and may be the first step for someone to try and figure out how they can address the issue they are facing. Unless asked, don't try to solve the issue for them.
Opening up about mental health issues can be a daunting step for someone, so when they share what they are feeling, don't change how or what you do with them; they are still the same person.
It maybe that someone you care about isn't ready to talk yet. That's fine; but they know that you are there, ready and willing to have the conversation to support them when they are ready. It may take time, but your support will be valued. Be patient
Whether you have a conversation or not, you can support the person by helping them out with their daily routine, meet up with them to do something in the community like some exercise or volunteering or just send them a note to check in. Loneliness can be one of big factors affection someones mental health.