If your family is as far-flung as mine, the holiday season may be one of the few times of the year you’ll see some relatives. In my family’s holiday pictures, the kids usually look completely different from one year to the next! Maybe one of your relatives has changed too and unfortunately, may be struggling with a mental health issue.
Possible signs may include a lower than normal mood, a lack of interest in family activities (withdrawal), crying spells or other symptoms of depression.
As someone who struggles with anxiety, having my family’s support is critical. Before I was first diagnosed, I was very defensive about my symptoms, and would brush off people’s concerns (with some serious teenage attitude). Here is some advice I can share about helping someone you think may be in distress.
Noticing a change in a family member can be uncomfortable. You may not know how to help or feel that it’s “not your place” to raise your concern with them, especially if it’s someone you don’t see very often. However, with respectful, empowering communication, you will be helping more than you think.
Sometimes, a relative who is struggling will ignore questions, or will become angry. Remember, the only thing you can do is to let someone know that you care, that you are there for them and that you support them.
I am so grateful that I have family members who offer consistent, patient support. I hope someone reading this will be able to offer such support to someone in their life this holiday season.
Sarah Evans is a M.P.H. candidate at the School of Public Health & Health Services at George Washington University.
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