Nearly one in five adults in America suffers from a mental illness each year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. More than half of those affected won’t receive professional treatment. With these odds, you likely have at least one friend or loved one who’s battling depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, OCD, or another mental-health issue — and he or she may feel like they’re facing it entirely on their own. Unfortunately, there’s no guidebook that tells us the right way to be supportive, but it’s abundantly clear that opening up — and keeping open — dialogue around these sometimes-stigmatized topics is a must.
That’s why we’ve partnered with Face The Issue, a nonprofit committed to encouraging healthy, productive conversations around mood, anxiety, and eating disorders, to break the silence once and for all. Provided that the conversations we most need to have are often the toughest ones to start, we spoke to women who bravely take on a diverse array of mental-health struggles every day in order to learn what those affected actually want to hear. From there, we conferred with psychologists to shed light on why these statements could prove helpful. Our hope? That together and with a commitment to fostering empathy and understanding, we can push forward.
Are You Okay?
Jennifer, who suffers from both depression and anxiety, first began experiencing anxiety attacks as a child. Before she was diagnosed, her parents would respond to these incidents by asking her to “just stop it,” which, in hindsight, she sees as dismissive and damaging. Instead, a simple “Are you okay?” is an easy way to acknowledge the issue and show someone that you care.
This short question not only gives the individual who’s suffering space to share her feelings, it can also help her change course if she’s in the throes of a depressive or anxious episode. “I’ve heard many times from people who felt somewhat trapped in their feelings, and words of kindness like these helped create an aha moment after which they saw more hope and less bleakness,” says Michael Brustein, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in New York City.
Read more at Refinery29.