It’s okay to ask

Grappling alone with mental trauma can be a scary experience and therefore, it is important to let people in

In an ideal world, we hope that people around us will notice that we need help with mental health issues, but this is not always the case. They may be wrapped in whatever is going on in their own lives. They may not be tuned into identifying the warning signs, and even if they do, they may be in denial about it and dismiss it as a phase you are going through, and instead wait for you to broach the topic with them yourself.

If you think you may be facing mental health issues, you owe to it yourself and to your loved ones to work on getting better, even if there are voices in your head that tell you that it isn’t worth it.

Watch for these

Here are some signs that may indicate that you need support:

You have gone through a traumatic event: Experiencing grief and loss, being involved in an accident, or at the receiving end of abuse are some examples of different traumatic situations. Everyone processes trauma differently, and often, it is not easy to overcome residual feelings and get back to how life was before the event.

Your usual routine has been disrupted: Finding yourself eating erratically, and changing your sleeping patterns (too much/too little)? Calling in sick to work often, or skipping classes for no reason? If you have experienced such disruptions to your routine, but can’t chalk them up to any good reasons apart from your feelings, then you probably need to get help to understand what is going on.

You feel ‘different’ from how you usually do: Experiencing deep levels of anxiety, sadness, nervousness, guilt or anger, and feeling helpless to do anything about it? Are these experiences interfering with how you run your daily life, to the point that you are scared to do some activities, don’t have the energy to do some others, or indulge in some activities a little too much?

You have lost interest in things that previously brought you joy: Spending less time with friends and family than before? Giving up on hobbies that you would otherwise dedicate a lot of effort to? Withdrawing from social events and preferring to spend time by yourself more than usual?

You are engaging in harmful behaviour: Are you doing things in excess — smoking or drinking too much, for instance? Or considering hurting yourself to change the way you feel?

If you are experiencing one or more of the above, it is important that you talk to someone about it, even if you are unable to clearly articulate what you are feeling. In the event that the person you talk to doesn’t offer you the right kind of help, keep trying until you find what you need. Grappling alone with mental health can be a scary experience, and letting people in will help ease the process. It could be something as simple as agreeing to accompany you while visiting a psychologist, or acting as a sounding board when you just want to talk. Recognising that you need help and asking for it is the first step towards getting better.

The writer is a psychologist and management consultant. [email protected]

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