Male, Female, Black, White, Asian, Muslim, Christian, Jew - none of these designations are excluded from the rise in mental health related issues in our communities. Most importantly, those of us who may look strong, smile a lot, and are always in good cheer, are sometimes the same individuals who are struggling with their own mental health issue.
Excerpts below from the original article publish by Today on July 13, 2020 entitled "Why you should be checking on your 'strong' Friends" by Danielle Layton.
Mental health is not one-size-fits-all, and it's not always easy to tell when someone is struggling. Some people hold their emotions inside and appear to be the "strong friend." That person seems to have it all together and will offer themselves as a consistent and trusted confidant. But for that reason, their emotional wellness can often be overlooked by those closest to them.
“The strong friend is everybody’s go-to person, and they hurt the most. Not only are they carrying your stuff, they’re carrying their own stuff too," explained Darrah Ferguson, a licensed graduate professional counselor. "They are the ones that are most compassionate or the most empathetic and struggle to turn those qualities that they give to others onto themselves. This then leads to mental health issues like depression and low self-esteem or just feeling inadequate because they’re not able to do for themselves what they do for others.”
Ferguson recommended paying attention to signs that indicate when your strong friend could need a friend themselves. Irritability (i.e. mood swings), sleep irregularities (i.e. oversleeping or sleep deficiency), diet changes and negative self-talk are some of the many signs that can indicate that it's time to reach out.
Below, she offers advice for starting a conversation with a strong friend that can lead to an open and honest discussion.
1. Strong people are human, too.
Your strong friend is not immune from the strains of everyday life. In other words, just because they never talk about their bad days doesn’t mean they never have one. Think about the things you would want that friend to ask you and try to put yourself in their shoes. “Treat your strong friend like you would want to be treated by them,” Ferguson said. This should help shape your approach to the conversation you're trying to have.
2. Challenge those generic responses to “How are you?”
The ubiquitous phrase has become a replacement for "Hello," and very rarely will someone reply with how they are truly feeling. When someone asks “How are you?” it is often answered as a closed question rather than an open-ended one. A recent piece in The Atlantic asserts that we need better questions to ask, especially now that we are living through a pandemic. So instead of giving your strong friend the opportunity to vaguely answer, “I’m fine” and move on, Ferguson suggested challenging their answer by asking “Why are you fine?” or “What stood out to you today?” This helps keep the conversation going and shows your interest in their feelings from the start.
3. Establish the foundation of the relationship
Determine the intentions of each party in the conversation to make sure the needs and wants are clear for both. When someone in your life knows what you expect from them, they have the chance to reflect on whether they are able to meet those needs or not. This helps avoid co-dependency from both sides. Have affirming conversations by expressing how much you love them, care for them and want to see them succeed.
Bottom line: Don’t forget to check-in on the people who support you. It may be your mother, father, partner, best friend or co-worker. They probably need you just as much as you need them, even if they have trouble expressing it
One of the key programmatic directives of Mumineen CDC is mental health awareness and mental health access. It is through our planned mental health initiatives that we seek to uplift some of the most marginalized members of the Central Indiana community who are struggling and suffering from various types of mental health issues.
To support our mental health initiatives, Mumineen CDC encourages you to donate online at www.mumineencdc.org
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, extreme distress, or having a mental breakdown, please text or call 988, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Indiana residents can also text or 741741. All calls are free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.
Layton, D. (2020). Why you should be checking on your 'strong' friends.