You might not be a mental health professional, but that doesn’t mean you can’t support others in a pandemic like Covid-19. There are some simple but highly effective ways you can help someone who’s having a rough time right now.
Signs of Mental Health Struggles During the Coronavirus Pandemic
There is a lot in the media about mental health lately – which is great. Increased awareness of mental health assistance (and, at least in Australia, improved access to these services with help from the government) helps to remove any perceived stigma around asking for help when struggling.
But what about the people who might not feel like they are especially at risk or struggling, but who still find this whole situation hard to deal with?
What about the majority of us, who are mostly fine, but sometimes are most definitely not fine?
If you are identifying with this notion of struggling a bit, but not exactly having a total breakdown, then imagine there are some people in your circles who might feel the same.
So, if someone isn’t entirely melting down, crying out for help, or otherwise showing a need for support, how do we know if they do need our support? And if they do need us, what do we do?
Well, I have a few ideas. These are by no means designed for any diagnostic purpose, but can go a long way when someone you care about is suffering the emotional impact of the Covid-19 crisis.
Firstly, here are some signs of mental distress to watch out for:
What someone is saying is important too. But more tricky.
How often have you been asked “How are you?” and regardless of how you are, you reply “Well, thank you”?
It’s not being deceptive. But we do sometimes reply automatically, and so do our friends and family.
So listen to how interested they sound in what you are doing, or how much detail they give you when you ask them a question. Broad, bland statements might mean they are feeling a little blue.
That other giveaway of mood is body language.
Here I am mostly referring to posture. Slumped shoulders can indicate a low mood (or just poor posture – go back to point one if unsure), as can an “out of character” unwillingness to move about or go out of the home.
To show support to someone you care about during the coronavirus pandemic, be willing to look closely at what their body may be telling you.
Yes, that’s right. The cranky person is often the one finding things difficult.
Listen for constant complaining, overreaction to small inconveniences, and snappiness.
The angry-upset person is a great one to ask, “What do you need?” This focuses them back on themselves and away from blaming everyone else, which can help them to recognise that they are in fact, anxious or down.
5 Ways to Support Others in a Pandemic
So, if you think your friend needs some support, how do you give it?
1. When in Doubt, Ask.
Offering support to others in a pandemic can be as simple as asking how things are in their world.
I say this ALL THE TIME to clients – especially to couples. Rather than assume anything, ask the person how they are or what they’re feeling.
Call up a friend or a relative and just inquire how they’re doing.
“What do you need?” is an excellent question and often stops people in their tracks because they may not have thought of what they need, they just know they don’t feel right.
2. Listen HARD.
You can support others in a pandemic by becoming a mood detective.
People often “show” their mood by their speech.
Listen for a flat, monotone voice, or a speedy, too-fast conversation. As well as content, these cues can be valuable clues.
I have a family member whom I speak to often and can tell how well or otherwise they are feeling by listening to the tempo (speed) of their speech.
3. Tea and Sympathy.
Or a wine and a whine, a beer and a laugh. Supporting someone through the pandemic might be as simple as hanging out with them.
Spending time with someone else can be great “therapy”. You are of course not expected to be a therapist. But you will be helping your friend to remember that they have support and that life isn’t all bad (because it usually isn’t totally bad, though for sure, it can feel it). Just listening can do wonders for someone who is finding life hard right now. Even the grumpy one.
What’s more generous than a bit of your time and your ears? If you’re separated geographically, you can do this on the phone or video chat.
4. Send A Care Pack.
Got someone sad in your life? Why not cheer them up with a little goody bag!
It doesn’t have to be much, just a little something that says you are thinking of them.
My family and I sent a care pack to some of our family in Victoria (and the pets) with little bits and pieces and a card just letting them know we care. A couple of dog treats, a few beauty samples I had in a drawer, some chocolates, a face mask.
If you have small kids, they could do some art to send to someone. Who doesn’t love getting something made by a kid?
5. Laughing All The Way.
You can totally use humour to support others in this pandemic. Funny stuff is so uplifting!
I love having jokes sent to me by friends. It shows me they understand my sense of humour and makes me feel “seen”.
My sister once sent me a cartoon she cut out of a newspaper. It’s in my wallet. Mostly I forget it is there but when I see it, I laugh every time and feel her love for me.
With email and social media so accessible, you can share funny posts without much trouble, and it might brighten someone’s day if you tag them or address it to them personally.
Suggest Professional Help if Necessary
Please remember this blog is not designed to help you diagnose anyone, but can help you recognise if someone needs a little extra TLC. And if the extra TLC doesn’t seem enough, perhaps suggest they engage in some professional help.
Knowing that you care will definitely help, even if the person is not able to tell you that themselves.