2020 has been a strange ‘ole year. Here in the UK, when the Queen has a particularly bad year, we call it her ‘annus horribilus’.

I thought my ‘annus horribilus’ was behind me. Having lost both my Grandparents and my childhood dog (fur-ever my best friend) in the space of 8 months a couple of years ago, I didn’t really think it could get any worse.

Whilst 2020 hasn’t delivered any comparably ‘drastic’ results (thankfully COVID hasn’t personally affected anyone I know and love), it’s brought up some pretty familiar feelings that I can recognise:

  • Intense feelings of sadness? ✔️
  • Random bursts of spontaneous crying ✔️
  • Feeling alone/loneliness even when people are around? ✔️
  • Withdrawing from those around you? ✔️
  • Easily distracted? ✔️
  • Lack of interest in your usual hobbies? ✔️

Any of those ‘symptoms’ sound like something you’re going through?

Like me, you may have depression.

Why am I bringing this up now?

This is a cry for help, but not in the way you might think. This is not a cry for help for me, but a shout of awareness for those around you who may be struggling, but are finding it hard to tell you.

Saturday 10th October is World Mental Health Day. A global awareness day that takes place every year, it aims to tackle the negative stigma that is still present around mental health, and educate those who may not understand their own or other people’s mental struggles.

This day is important, this year, more than ever.

We’ve all had our struggles during 2020. Whether with the lockdown restrictions that have been forced upon us, whether COVID has resulted in you being furloughed for months on end or ultimately ended up in redundancy/job loss, or it may have had the more drastic and permanent affect on you, your loved ones or someone you know.

We have all been affected in some shape or form.

MIND, the UK’s mental health charity, recently released some statistics from a post-lockdown survey they ran, and it showed some staggering results:

…more than half of adults (60%) and over two thirds of young people (68%) said their mental health got worse during lockdown.

MIND, 2020

So what can you do to help?

Stress, depression, anxiety* – the people you know and love may be struggling with any one of these issues, or even a combination of them all.

Having experienced all 3 at some point over the last 10 years, I wanted to share some easy steps that you can take to support them through this tough time:

  • Recognise the symptoms – the first, most critical step is to recognise the signs that your person is struggling. If someone’s just feeling a bit sad, they might just genuinely be sad. But if they’re displaying a number obvious signs, that’s when it’s time to step in.
  • Do your research – before you do anything else, do your research. Whilst you think you may be able to help, there may be some situations that are too far out of your control. Check out Mind’s page on supporting other’s with mental health problems, do your own Google search of their symptoms, or ask other’s that you think may have been through similar.
  • Check in – if you think they’re struggling, check in with your person. If you can’t do this face-to-face (damn COVID), try giving them a call. We can all too easily slip in to “I’ll just send a quick text, that’ll do” mode – but it’s easier that way for them to hide how they are really feeling.
  • Give them time to talk – and by this I mean really talk. Don’t just ask them “how are you?” but try and get to the root cause of what’s troubling them. It may be a challenge at first, and yes it may be uncomfortable conversation for many, but once those floodgates open…well, they may take a while to close up again.
  • Try and offer a distraction – quite often, mental health ‘moments’ can often just be a quick blip in a person’s day. But those blips can add up, and manifest into a bigger issue. When an individual is feeling isolated, being left alone with those thoughts and feelings can create a ‘dark cloud’ that follows them during that day. Try and offer a bit of sunlight to break through that cloud – suggest meeting up for a coffee (socially distanced of course), watch a TV show or film together, or simply have a catch-up (who doesn’t love a good Zoom in this day and age?!).
  • Suggest they seek help – this part can often be tricky. With the negative stigma still ever present around mental health, people won’t want to admit that they might need more professional help for the fear of people thinking they are ‘crazy’. But the more you make the suggestion, the quicker they might realise that they actually could do with the additional support.
  • I am by no means a mental health expert, and I’m not saying any of these tips will work for definite, or will ‘cure’ your person of all their problems. But it’s a start.

I by no means profess to be a mental health expert, and I’m not saying any of these tips will work for definite, or will ‘cure’ your person of all their problems. But it’s a start.

A starting point for you to educate yourself on mental health, the conditions, the signs and hopefully some of the ways in which you can help people through their mental health journey.

Who knows, it might help you at some point in the future.

*This is not a complete list of mental health problems that individuals can suffer with, but are simply 3 of the most common, and the ones that I have experienced.

Visit MIND’s website for a more complete list of the types of mental health problems they could be facing.