Mental Health: Connecting Openly & Honestly

As we say goodbye to Mental Health Month in May and welcome Men’s Mental Health Month in June, there is no better time to check in with ourselves and each other.

 

The past year has brought challenges that were unfamiliar to us all. While we have adapted to new social guidelines, followed the instructions of healthcare professionals, and blurred the line of work-life balance, another trend has emerged: an increase in depression and anxiety symptoms. According to the CDC, “The percentage of adults who had symptoms of an anxiety or a depressive disorder during the past 7 days and those with unmet mental health needs during the past 4 weeks increased significantly from August 2020 to February 2021.” 

 

Given these trends and how common the symptoms of depression and anxiety are, it stands to reason that all of us have close family and friends who are feeling this way. It may be that we are feeling the symptoms of depression ourselves.

 

What can we do to normalize conversations around mental health?

 

Check in. 

Is there a friend, coworker, or family member you haven’t talked to in a while? Give him or her  a call for something other than a practical question. Hearing your voice and knowing that there is someone who cares enough to reach out can make a huge difference in that person’s mental well-being.

 

Educate yourself.

Familiarize yourself with symptoms of depression and anxiety (they are varied, and many of them may not be what you would expect) and keep an eye out for them. Ask questions (without judgment) if you are concerned -- e.g., “I noticed you haven’t been eating much, how are you doing?” or “You seem more quiet in meetings lately, I just wanted to check in.”

 

Discuss mental health openly and without judgment. 

People are often afraid to mention mental health, to bring up a friend’s mental health symptoms, or to discuss going to therapy. They worry that conversations will feel uncomfortable or intrusive. But discussing it openly, with no judgment, normalizes the conversation and makes it more comfortable for others to bring up their own concerns.

 

By remembering to connect often and honestly, you are reminding others that you see them, you notice them, and that you care.

 

June is Men’s Mental Health Month. Men have their own mental health challenges which include society’s flawed standard that men should be “tough” or “strong”. This perception is incredibly damaging to men who want to seek help. Society tells them to “man up” or “get over it” instead of providing the help they need. Men also report symptoms of mental health differently than women. Men are more likely to report fatigue or irritability rather than feelings of sadness or worthlessness. As such, depression in men often goes undiagnosed. They are more likely than women to downplay their symptoms and be reluctant to seek out therapy.

 

Make it a point this month to reach out to a male friend, colleague, or family member and check in. Ask them how they are feeling. Ask them if there is anything that they are struggle with, and if so, how you can help. Below you will find some resources to use or share with someone you believe may be dealing with mental health struggles during this time.

 

Above all, interact with kindness, honesty, and no judgment. For many people, this is a time where we feel more isolated than we have ever felt before. Make the effort to reach out and connect with people as human beings. Everyone is dealing with something, and by talking about it, we can normalize the conversation about mental health for everyone. We’ve collected a variety of mental health resources below:

 

MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES:

National Mental Health Hotline: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline 

Symptoms of Anxiety & Depression: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7013e2.htm 

How To Help A Friend: https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Teens-Young-Adults/How-to-Help-a-Friend 

Help For Mental Illnesses: nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help/ 

Find A Therapist Tool: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists 

 

MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES FOR MEN:

Mental Health Resources: https://allinforhealth.info/resources/mental-health-resources-for-men/ 

Men & Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/men-and-mental-health/ 

5 Minute Guide to Men’s Mental Health: https://www.mhanational.org/infographic-mental-health-men 

Reducing Men’s Mental Health Stigma: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-can-we-reduce-mens-mental-health-stigma

 

Mental Health is a Global Issue

In the past few years, the team at Veristat has seen a dramatic increase in biopharmaceutical companies strengthening their pipelines and requesting help testing mental health therapies. While not one of our core areas of expertise, in the last 5 years Veristat has supported over 30 studies for 15 sponsors developing medical therapies aimed at improving the lives of patients who struggle with mental health challenges including depression, anxiety, PTSD, Schizophrenia and more.