The (Not So Subtle) Art of Asking for Help
mental health support
Hey, you! Yes, you, reading this. You probably need help. No, no, wait...before you stop reading, this isn’t a slight at who you are, or your character.
It’s just...well, a high probability that you need help. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic mental health issues worldwide have skyrocketed. And they were pretty high even before our planet was plunged into worldwide panic and tension and dis-ease. So our responses of increased anxiety and anxiety disorders as well as depression is totally 100% understandable and nothing to be ashamed of.
See the comic above? That's pretty much me since the start of the pandemic. You might even be able to relate, too. My heart, my emotional self, is hair-trigger on edge. It's due to all of us being in heightened fight-or-flight mode, psychologically speaking, because of the pandemic.
I’m pretty sure there’s probably not one person alive right now that hasn’t been affected on some level by the pandemic. And that is OKAY. There’s nothing wrong with having a tough time and struggling during this strange and crazy year-and-a-half-ish, so far.
And you know what? If you are, you’re not alone. And thankfully there are a lot of options to get help to guide and support you through whatever you might be going through, whether it’s mild, moderate or severe depression, or one of the many different kinds of anxiety disorders, or any other mental health issue, there’s something that can help you.
Phew. Doesn’t that make you feel just a little bit better? Help you breathe a bit easier? It’s not just you. It’s everyone. And if someone says they’re totally fine, they’re probably not telling you the whole truth.
I’ve had my share of panic attacks, health anxiety issues (about cleanliness and germs and food safety), and just literal emotional breakdowns - when even cooking dinner at times had me in tears and feeling like an utter failure and that I couldn’t do anything right (I burned soup. SOUP! Who burns soup?! Me, that's who).
Even going to the grocery store now. Something we used to never think twice about now becomes a journey into the apocalypse: Mask? Check. Hand sanitizer? Check. Wipes for the cart? Check. Am I physically distanced enough? I don’t know, this person is standing uncomfortably close to me in the produce section and oh my god why are they touching everything?! See what I mean? Even just writing this is getting my heart rate up. Okay, breathe, Caitlin, breathe.
According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website, depression is one of the most common mental disorders and they estimate that 5.0% of adults suffer from it worldwide. It’s also a leading cause of disability and contributes to the global burden of overall disease. The website does say that there is treatment for all levels of depression - mild, moderate and severe. And that help comes in the form of, most often, a combination of psychotherapy (aka talk therapy, like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which can be very helpful for depression) and medication.
And the website Our World In Data outlines world anxiety numbers of 284 million or 3.8% of the global population as of 2017 (and this was from back in 2017 so the numbers are now probably way higher - especially due to the pandemic).
And again from the WHO back in 2016, "common mental disorders are increasing worldwide. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety increased by nearly 50%, from 416 million to 615 million. Close to 10% of the world’s population is affected, and mental disorders account for 30% of the global non-fatal disease burden." And 2013 was...well, it feels like a lifetime ago, so again, the number of mental health disorders is also probably much higher today.
What am I getting at here, you might be asking? Okay let me get to the point.
If you’re struggling with anything at all in your day to day life - maybe you’ve experienced a lot of loss (I know I have), or maybe you’ve been feeling down for awhile (more than two weeks), or having a hard time getting out of a ‘funk’, or perhaps you’re feeling lonely because, well, hello pandemic and lockdowns etc. - whatever it is, it’s so important to reach out for help.
But I know what you’re thinking. I don’t need help. I can get through (insert whatever you’re feeling/dealing with/going through) by myself. Or (insert here) will go away on its own, I just have to push through. Or (insert here) is not that bad, other people have it much worse.
Okay, I get it. Asking for help is hard. It's uncomfortable, or embarrassing, or awkward. You have to be vulnerable, and we aren’t taught how to be vulnerable, so instead we try pull ourselves up from our bootstraps and brush off whatever we’re feeling and experiencing, and we power through thinking that whatever it is we’re going through will somehow magically go away/get better/resolve itself, and you’ll be back to your old self before you know it.
But, sadly, it doesn’t work like that. Sometimes you can’t see what’s truly going on because you’re too close to it. You’re living it. But friends and family can probably see a difference. They can notice a change in you. So let them help you. As a first step, approach a friend or family member, and with their support, they can help you get the support you need.
REMEMBER: Needing help doesn't make you a bad person, or a failure, or stupid. Or, or, or...In fact, you’re the very opposite of all those things. You are BRAVE. You are COURAGEOUS. You are just f***ing AWESOME for taking steps to help you live better and healthier and be a stronger person than you were before. Seriously. I'm proud of you, whoever you are that's out there getting help.
So if you’re taking those first steps, give yourself a huge pat on the back! It takes a special person to admit when they need help. Despite what you might think, people will understand and they will support you. And they’ll possibly even wish they were brave and strong and courageous enough to do the same as you!
We can’t all do everything on our own, and no one should expect us to. But we have to let people know when we are struggling and need support, otherwise they can't help us.
Wherever you are, there are resources that can help you. Check out this website that has phone numbers and websites for various mental health resources for wherever you may be, from America and Japan to Europe, UK and South Africa and more!
Take good care.
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