Believe it or not, people are hardwired to naturally orient towards their fellow human beings. While some people may feel like they work better in solitude, the fact is that at the end of the day, we need social interaction with others to thrive grow. People have, are and will always be inherently social.
History has proven time and time again that together, people can achieve extraordinary things. For instance, it’s due to joining of forces that Google was founded. Sergey Brin and Larry Page (Google founders) met each other in 1998 at Stanford University California when Brin gave Page a tour of the university. Isn’t that amazing? A purely coincidental meeting bringing strangers together and ultimately transforming the world! While we might not all necessarily reinvent Google; by connecting with others, we can not only achieve great things, but we can also grow emotionally.
Here’s an overview of some statistics and facts form American Psychological Association and The World Health Organization regarding stress and emotional instability.
- Top causes of stress in the U.S. are health, money, relationships, media overload, job pressure and sleep deprivation.
- Anxiety disorders affect more than 40 million adults in the U.S. making it one of the most common mental illnesses.
- Major depressive disorder (MDD) affects about 6.7% of U.S. adults in a given year.
- Among the people who suffer from anxiety disorder, about 37% receive proper treatment.
- Approximately 38,000 people commit suicide each year in the U.S.
Considering these facts and figures, what are the odds that someone you know might be in need of emotional support? It’s quite straightforward, the odds are pretty high. Sadly, research has found that due to one reason or another, people suffering from anxiety disorders and depression rarely share what they are going through or feeling – let alone reach out for help.
So, what are you supposed to do if a friend or family member is in need of emotional support? Here are some things to do and things not to do when someone tells you they need help (emotionally):
- Be a good listener
Lending someone your ear or a shoulder to lean on might mean more to them than you realise. If someone you know tries to approach you regarding their emotional state, just listen – it’s that simple.
Often, the first instinct is to give them advice, and tell them that they’ll get through it – but sometimes you just need to be there as a set of ears to listen to what they are going through and let them get their problems off their chest and out in the open.
Remember, it has taken a lot of effort and courage for someone to share their innermost fears and emotions, sparing a couple of minutes might make a world of difference. It’s also worth noting that sometimes, people overwhelmed by stress, anxiety and depression might not be in a stable mental state, so it’s really important to carefully consider any responses you have to the issues they have shared with you. The point here, is that being emotionally available and genuinely lending an empathetic ear can go a long way to helping someone you feel may not be doing so well emotionally.
- Politely inquire about the root of the problem
People rarely have mental instability overnight. Stress, anxiety and depression accumulate over time, they don’t just pop up one morning. Bearing this is mind; politely find out what might be the cause of their emotional distress. Understanding the cause of the problem plays a significant role in finding the solution.
But how do you go about asking about the problem?
The first thing to remember is not to be in a rush or be pushy about them sharing the information; ease them into it and let them tell you their story on their own terms. Ask genuine questions and let them feel in control over what they decide to share with you. This way, you will not only get closer to understanding the cause of the problem, but you will also help them feel comfortable enough around you to go deep on the details to reveal the cause of their issues.
It can be scary listening to problems of others that you have no idea how to solve but remember: listening isn’t rocket science – you don’t need a PhD in psychology to listen. Simply trying to understand someone suffering from emotional inability might go a long way to helping improve their mental state.
- Don’t judge
It’s common for young adults to have a difficult time sharing with adults simply because they don’t want the judgment that comes before actual help. How many times has a friend, child or colleague at work ever approached you asking for help? The answer might just depend on how judgmental you are – or better yet, how impartial you are. People suffering from emotional distress will rarely confide with judgmental individuals. The key here is to always remain open minded supportive and approachable.
What might appear small and insignificant to you might not be so to another individual. In order to relate, try and put yourself in their shoes and perceive things as they do. Judging their behaviour or belittling them is not helpful. By relating, you establish a sense of camaraderie and they will share more and even follow your advice.
- Bring up the option of seeking professional help
While you might provide first aid to the wound, you do not have the expertise to fully treat anxiety disorder and depression. Mental health is a sensitive issue and requires the finesse of a professional. As you talk or listen to a person suffering from mental instability, bring up the idea of seeking professional help. Observe their reaction to your suggestion before you get persistent. When someone trusts you with their emotional struggles, if they are open to the idea, encourage them to consider seeing a registered psychologist or counsellor.
Sometimes, helping someone who is not going well emotionally involves more listening, patience and understanding than taking proactive steps. From there, you can then begin to address the issues your friend or loved one is facing with a solid foundation of trust and understanding by both of you.
Reviewed by Greg Redmond, Director, Counselling in Melbourne, 2018
Our blog is for general educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioural problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional