It depends on where you’re coming from, says Erik Vanderlip, MD MPH, Psychiatrist and Zoom’s Mental Health Team Lead.
Here’s why you should give yourself a gut-check before bringing up potential anxiety or depression — and how to express your concern the right way.
The gut check (don’t skip this step!)
First step: Question your motive. “Sometimes we just want to commiserate or, worse, gain some advantage by identifying perceived weakness in others,” says Dr. Vanderlip. “We’re competitive by nature, so these feelings can be natural — but sometimes not helpful.”
If your concern is 100% genuine, then speaking up is the right thing to do.
Start with a fair warning
Don’t blurt it out. “It’s always a good idea to give someone a heads up before broaching a touchy topic like anxiety or depression,” says Dr. Vanderlip. “Ask ‘Is it okay if I say something kind of sensitive and awkward?’”
Few people will say no, and it shows you’re doing this thoughtfully.
Say what you’ve noticed
Don’t name-drop a specific mood disorder. “Keep your comment to a basic observation,” says Dr. Vanderlip. “‘Lately I’ve noticed you seem distant / burnt out / overwhelmed / sad / frustrated…’ whatever applies.”
This approach is best because you’re not claiming to know what they’re feeling, or trying to guess what they’re going through. You’re just stating what you’ve seen and opening it up for discussion.
Chances are, they’ll want to talk. If they don’t, let it go. “An exception is if you have serious safety concerns,” says Dr. Vanderlip. “You can call 911 or crisis lines 24/7.”
Remind them it’s easy to get help
Finally, reassure them that talking to a Mental Health Specialist doesn’t have to be a big deal.
“I like to remind people that there are professionals out there whose job it is to sort these things out,” says Dr. Vanderlip. “Just like you’d go to the doctor if you thought your ankle was broken but weren’t sure, you can see a Mental Health Care professional for an assessment.”
A fifteen-minute conversation can do a world of good.
[Photo by Jorge Flores via Unsplash]