When we see someone struggling with anxiety, we can feel at a loss as to what we can do to help.
When we see someone we care about struggling with their mental health in any way, it can be daunting, we can become fearful of saying the wrong thing and in doing so, often choose to say nothing. Most people who are struggling, will tell you that the worse thing anyone can say is nothing at all. It can cause the sufferer to feel even more alone, isolated and stuck in their heads.
There are ways in which we can help open up the subject of anxiety to someone and show them that they are not alone. Here are some of my top tips.
1. Be Proactive
We can often say nothing believing that the person "knows I am here" or that they "will talk to me when they are ready". This may be the case for some but for others, they may be waiting for you to acknowledge their struggle.
If you are concerned about someone who may be experiencing difficulties with anxiety, approaching them in a caring way and offering support may make a huge difference to them.
Proactively approach them; initiate a conversation with the person asking how they are feeling, whilst we can never force someone to open up, we can offer the space for them to do so by asking and genuinely listening to their replies.
2. Really Listen
Unfortunately, most of us listen with the intent of replying and therefore do not always pay close enough attention to what someone is telling us. We can all be guilty of this, so challenge yourself to pay attention to every word the person says. Refrain from making the conversation about yourself and continue to ask questions allowing the person to feel truly heard.
3. Honour their privacy
If someone has the courage to open up to you about how they are feeling, you are responsible for keeping that information safe with only two exceptions, if you believe that the person is a risk to themselves and / or others then you have a responsibility to get them the help they need by contacting a medical professional, but if you do find yourself in this situation, please do inform the person that this is what you will be doing.
However, most of the time, this is not the case and so if someone has trusted you with their private experience, I urge you to see this as a privilege and something that you will not abuse. That information should never be shared nor ever be held against them.
If you betray someone’s trust when they open up to you about their mental health, it is not only likely they would never open up to you again but also possible that they may never open up to anyone again.
If you are concerned about your own or someone else's anxiety, please seek some help today. Of course you can reach out to your GP but there are also other resources which can help such as:
•Anxiety UK – www.anxietyuk.org.uk
•No Panic – www.nopanic.org.uk
•OCD Action – www.ocdaction.org.uk
•Employee Assistance Programme - Does your employer have such a thing? If so, you are often able to receive some confidential telephone based counselling sessions.