Recognizing when a loved one might need more help

With the ups and downs and ongoing uncertainties of COVID-19, many of us are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Most mental health care professionals would agree that stress and anxiety are typical responses during times of change and uncertainty, and it’s okay to feel this way.

Some of us, however, are more than just a bit stressed out, struggling to adapt to a life of unknowns. What should you do when you recognize that someone — such as a loved one — might need the help of a mental health care professional?

Here are some tips and resources from Kelly Brotherton, LPC, BJC Behavioral Health therapist.

How do you recognize when a loved one might need the help of a mental health care professional? What are some of the signs?

Your loved one might withdraw from usual interactions with family and friends. You may notice changes in their sleep and appetite. They may become irritable and have difficulty concentrating. They may not be interested in the activities they used to enjoy. Your loved one may also express more worries and avoid things that make them anxious or stressed. They may complain of physical ailments, such as headaches or stomachaches. Children may become defiant, irritable, withdrawn or begin having “bad dreams.” You may notice a change in their sleep and appetite. They, too, may also offer more physical health complaints. They may talk about worries and fears and seem more restless.

How do you convince your loved one that he or she needs the help of a mental health care provider?

Approaching a loved one about getting extra assistance can be difficult. Letting your loved one know that you care and are concerned for them is important. Offer to assist them with seeking and finding help, and attending their first appointment can be very helpful.

How do you help a loved one who doesn’t want to be helped?

Continue to support your loved one and check in with them often. If you feel they are a danger to themselves or others, please reach out to local community mental health care providers for assistance with additional steps that can be taken to get help.

What services, tools or resources are available for someone who needs help?

If you think a friend or family member is experiencing severe stress, anxiety or depression, seek mental health support or have them contact their doctor or primary care physician, who can refer them to a mental health professional. Insurance companies also maintain a list of mental health providers. Or, ask your employer if an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to you as part of your benefits package. EAP services are typically free to employees.

For Missouri residents negatively impacted by the pandemic, BJC Behavioral Health provides free crisis counseling through the Missouri Department of Mental Health's "Show-Me Hope" program. Learn more here or call 314.747.7492.

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