Time to check in on your loved ones

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing. Add a time change, political drama and economic uncertainty and it’s a recipe for depression.

If you received unusual messages from friends, worried about the state of their mental health this week, you’re seeing SAD at work. We’re also about to swing into the holiday season when loneliness and depression often manifest.

What do you do when you may be feeling equally uncertain and disheartened?

First things first. If a friend admits to suicidal thoughts, give them the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. Veterans can access the Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255, Press 1. These resources are also recommended if you notice a pattern that might indicate a mental health condition.

Second. Unless you are trained in counseling, recommend building a relationship with a pro. We hire gurus to help us manage our money, do our taxes, and fix out plumbing. And our beloved primary care docs don’t know the brain as well as a good shrink. Find one. We all deserve somebody who gives us a regular hour to listen to our fears and concerns. Someone educated to help us cope.

As you guide the other person toward professional assistance, listen, ask clarifying questions, conjure as much empathy as possible. Mental Health America suggests active listening. Be careful not to compare their situation with your own experiences. Put judgmental thoughts aside. Ask what you can do, offering up a few suggestions without being pushy. If you are nearby, offer to accompany them while they walk the dog, go to the store, or attend a doctor’s appointment.

MHA notes, “While 1 in 5 people will experience a diagnosable mental health condition in their lives, 5 out of 5 people will go through a challenging time that affects their mental health.” Loss of a loved one, a job change, a move, trauma, even a success event like a promotion can trigger issues.

These experiences happen in every life cycle. In these crazy times, keep an eye out for behavioral changes in people you care about. And set up a system to check-in with those most important to you, “Just calling to see how you’re doing,” can make a huge difference.

And if you are living in the suffering zone, don’t be afraid to tell someone. That act alone can be life-changing in a healthy, positive way.

Hang in there. We’re all in this together.