MENTAL HEALTH

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Sometimes just knowing that someone is willing to listen to help them can help a lot. Even a text that says "I'm here for you whenever you need me" can make a world of difference.

M

ental health issues don't discriminate.

Mental illness may affect you regardless of whom you love, what you look like, what you believe, or how much money you have in the bank. In fact, it impacts up to 46.6 million adults in America, according to data from the National Institute of Mental Health. That's nearly one in five adults.

But while mental health issues affect all people, we need to talk about how coping and receiving care is a much different story.

The truth is, people from minority groups are less likely to receive mental health care than others.

Research from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) shows that in 2015, for example, 48% of white adults living with mental illness received mental health services, compared with 31% of Black and Hispanic adults, and 22% of Asian adults.

Stress and mental health challenges can be isolating enough without the added barrier of physical distancing. Therefore, it is crucial to regularly check in on your loved ones during these challenging times. Even if things seem outwardly fine, you never know when someone is just waiting to be heard.

"Reach out to them and let them know you are thinking of them and they are loved and that you would love to talk or get together but do not push them," says Emily, 18. "Allow them to open up and talk to you on their own time. Send them things that make you happy and share the joy with them."

When reaching out to a friend or family member, try to really listen to what they have to say and what they need from you. Sometimes, it's just someone to vent to or bounce thoughts off of, and other times they may be looking for advice or support in getting something done.

"To support a friend, I will show my love for them and listen to them with an open mind. Sincerity and empathy are paramount," 

How to know when it's time to get help.

There's a wide range of mental health conditions, and pinpointing whether or not you're experiencing one or more can be tough—especially since it's easy to fall down a WebMD rabbit hole.

An expert can help you pinpoint exactly which mental illness you might be dealing with, but what's most important is knowing when to seek help in the first place.

So, when is it time to acknowledge that you're feeling more than the normal sense of stress and tiredness?

Typically, the best time to dive deeper into your mental health is when these feelings become excessive and disruptive to your day-to-day. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) outlines many of the common warning signs of mental illness—here are just a few:

●︎ Excessive worrying or fear

 

●︎ Feeling excessively sad or low

 

●︎ Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable "highs" or feelings of euphoria

 

●︎ Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger

 

●︎ Avoiding friends and social activities

 

●︎ Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress

  Seeking help is the first step in ensuring your well-being—          and it's a sign of strength, not weakness.

Confronting a Friend.

Friendships can have an effect on your mental health, either positively or negatively. A good friendship can help you work through difficult experiences or emotions, and a bad friendship can leave you feeling even worse.

If you're stuck in a stressful friend conflict, you can take to get space from it, confront it head-on, and, if necessary, end it altogether. Here are some dos and don'ts for all three.

Do:
  • Stay calm. It's stressful to talk to a friend about something they did that impacted you, and you'll both probably be feeling a lot -- embarrassment, hurt, anger, etc. Don't let those emotions overpower what you're trying to do (which is to come to a solution together).

  • Focus on the current situation. Keep the conversation on one specific behavior or pattern of behavior. For example, if you talked to someone about the snarky comment last week, don't bring up unrelated drama from last year.

  • Speak from your perspective. "I" statements will keep the conversation grounded in what you've been experiencing and feeling, while "you" statements may just upset your friend. In other words, rattling off the things they did with no context on their impact on you might feel like an unnecessary attack on them. For example, this is the difference between "I felt embarrassed when you said that to me in the cafeteria" vs. "You're always mean to me in public."

  • Listen to them. Give them the same courtesy you'd want from them, and try to see the situation from their point of view. You may just come out with a better understanding of why they behaved the way they did.

  • Set clear boundaries. Once you've decided to get some space from each other, be upfront with your friend about what you need. Can you still hang out in a larger group? Are texts okay?

  • Lean on your other relationships. This is a good time to make and maintain your other friendships. It'll remind you that plenty of people in your life support and care for you (plus, hanging out with friends is just super stress-relieving).

  • Keep it polite. You, your friend, and the people around you will feel a lot less tense if you keep things civil. You don't have to be their best bud, but a smile and a wave when you see them in the hallway lets them know that you don't hate their guts.

  • Take care of yourself. Use the extra space and time to build yourself up and do the things that make you feel good, like exercising, eating healthy, or making art. Fighting with a friend can be really emotionally draining, so keep an eye on your needs.

Don't:
  • Blindly react. When your friend does something to upset you, your first instinct may be to lash out or try to respond immediately. However, your conversation won't be productive if you're still fuming, so take a few breaths, hours, or even days to really process what happened and how you feel.

  • Pull others into it. The last thing you and your friend need is to put your situation on blast, either through social media or word of mouth. It's between the two of you, and the pressure from other people will just add to your stress.

  • Make accusations. All that you know is what you experienced. If your friend bailed on your plans last minute, you're allowed to feel upset about it, but you can't jump to conclusions about why they did it. This conversation will help you get clarity if you just ask rather than make assumptions.

  • Try to "win" the argument. If you're going into this confrontation expecting your friend to entirely admit to blame and give you some big gesture of apology, then you're not in the right frame of mind. The goal is to gain some understanding and find a solution to the issue -- NOT to be "right."

  • Expect too much from them. Communicating your needs to your friend is really crucial, but you can't ask for more than what they can give. It's not reasonable to expect them to change their class schedule or drop your shared club to avoid seeing you.

  • Feel guilty for wanting space. No one is entitled to your time or attention, including your friends. There's nothing wrong with saying no and choosing not to engage in situations that make you uncomfortable.

  • Make it personal. Keep in mind that your friend isn't necessarily a bad person -- it's just that their behavior is impacting you negatively. You can work to avoid and adjust the behavior without making them feel like they're just a crummy human.

  • Send mixed messages. If this is a choice you want to make, stick with it. For example, it'll get confusing if you tell them you want no contact and keep tagging them in memes all week. Be clear and consistent from the start.

  • Do it publicly. Once you've ended your friendship, don't go subtweeting about it online or making a big show of it at school. Privacy will let you both heal and move on in the best way for you, without fear of public judgment.

  • Be vengeful. Yes, you might have some not-so-great feelings lingering even after the friendship is over. There are better ways to get those feelings out (exercise, therapy, art, etc.) than being spiteful towards them.

  • Ask friends to take sides. It's a challenging situation for you and your friend, but it's probably just as hard for the friends that you two share. Seeing your friends feuding is really upsetting, so don't make it harder on them by asking them to choose between you. It is unfair to them, but you may also find yourself upset with them if they don't go the way you planned.

  • Gossip about it. These situations are really, really complicated, and as much as you might want to rant and vent to someone about it, recognize when it's unhelpful. It'll likely get back to your former friend and open up the same kind of tension that you're trying to avoid.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

  • One of the easiest ways you can lower your self-esteem is to compare yourself to others. Everyone is not supposed to look the same or have the same life experiences. You will always find someone with something you do not have, but that doesn't mean that person is happier than you. 

 

Go on a Solo Vacation

  • Going on vacation by yourself is a great way to learn to enjoy being alone and step out of your comfort zone. Go somewhere relaxing, such as a spa retreat or a quiet, charming little town in the Hamptons. Create an itinerary so you never get bored or feel like there is nothing for you to do. You can fill an entire day by reading a book by the pool, going for a swim, and having a nice solo dinner.

 

Practice Gratitude

  • Learn to appreciate what you have by practicing daily gratitude. You can write down the things you're thankful for every day in a journal or clear your mind during yoga. Train yourself to stop and be mindful of blessings as they come your way.

Declutter Your Home

  • Research shows that decluttering your home is a great way to sharpen your mind, promote relaxation, stimulate your creative side, and purify the air. It's also a great way to make money. Start by moving from room to room and making piles of things you want to keep, donate, sell, or throw away. When you finish, take photographs of the things you plan to sell and post them online. Be mindful of the space you create and think of things you can do with it that will benefit your life.

Seek Help From Mental Health Experts

  • Working on your mental health is something every person should be doing. No one is exactly where they want to be mentally, and there's no excuse to avoid it, especially now that you can access experts online. Online therapy is fast, easy, and often more affordable than meeting someone online. You can get immediate care if you look for apps with many specialists treating various conditions. Some even offer free consultations to make sure you are matched with the right expert.

 

Now that you have some ideas for stepping out of your comfort zone, remember that it's okay to resort back to your safe space if you need to do so. Overwhelming yourself with self-care defeats the purpose. Getting comfortable with discomfort is a gradual process. Turn to the Tyler Project for more mental health resources.

Written by Charley Sunday and attached with permission.