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Expert Tips from Rob Cole, LMHC, Clinical Director of Mental Health Services
Mental illness affects over 42 million people in the United States each year; while countless others suffer from situational sadness, loss and grief issues, trauma and anxiety.
There is a great misconception, among both those who struggle as well as their loved ones, that people should simply be able to “snap out of it” or “pull themselves together.” In reality, many need professional help to overcome the issues they are facing. Rob Cole, LMHC, Clinical Director of Mental Health Services at Banyan Boca shares professional tips to help you better understand when a loved one may need professional help to overcome the mental health issues they are facing. According to Rob, if a loved one is exhibiting any of these signs, especially for a prolonged period of time, they may need the help of a therapist or mental health counselor.
1. They are neglecting everyday tasks and responsibilities, or exhibit a change in habits and routine.
If you notice a loved one is struggling with everyday tasks, such as cleaning the house, food shopping or walking the dog, this may be a sign that they are suffering from depression or other mental health issues and are in need professional help. Your loved one may feel overwhelmed by simple tasks that they used to easily accomplish and may have difficulty fulfilling even routine obligations. Even things like getting out of bed, showering or getting dressed can become difficult for someone who is in need of help, and you may notice that their personal hygiene and appearance takes a turn for the worse. Your loved one may begin sleeping more than usual, or alternately not sleeping at all. In these situations, it is important not to lose your temper with your loved one or accuse them of being lazy/messy/careless. Instead, you might say something along the lines of “I’ve noticed you haven’t been walking the dog as much lately, is everything okay?”
2. They are no longer participating in activities they used to enjoy.
A person who is struggling with depression or anxiety may shy away from activities they used to enjoy. If your loved one used to look forward to attending a child’s soccer game, or going out to dinner on the weekends, and now shows apprehension or even disinterest in attending such events, this may be a sign that they are in need of help.
3. They frequently express feelings of being depressed, anxious, overwhelmed or having lost hope.
If your loved one is frequently expressing these negative emotions, it’s important to listen. Don’t downplay the significance of these feelings, even if you don’t understand where they are coming from. Individuals who struggle with mental health issues often experience emotions in an intense way, making it difficult for them to overcome their feelings on their own. Your loved one may make comments such as “what’s the point?” Or “I don’t think I’ll ever feel better.” It is often difficult for those who are struggling to see past the feelings they are currently experiencing, and they may begin to think that they are going to feel this way forever. Expressing a desire to hurt themselves or others is a serious indicator that someone is in need of professional help, and needs to be addressed immediately. Should a loved one make references to self-injury, suicide or harming others (For example, saying things like “You’d be better off without me”) it is important to get them to a safe place where they can be evaluated by a mental health professional right away. Your local emergency room is a place that can do this.
I think my loved one may need help. What do I do?
When trying to convince someone to seek help, it is important to come from a place of compassion and understanding. If you sound accusatory or angry your loved one may become defensive, or shut down altogether. Once this happens it is very difficult to have a productive conversation, and the person may become opposed to seeking help at all. Using statements such as, “I love you and I’m worried” or “Tell me what I can do to help” are good ways to let your loved one know that you’re on their side and are trying to act in their best interest. Never try to guilt your loved one into seeking help by saying things like “You aren’t being a very good mother,” or “Can you imagine what the kids think?” However, drawing boundaries is often necessary. Make it clear that in order for your relationship to continue in a positive way, your loved one must seek help and attempt to get better. Never enable them by making excuses for their behavior, or encouraging them to continue neglecting themselves. Sometimes, taking the first step, and getting information on therapists or treatment options available in your area can be helpful for the person who is struggling.