Nearly three million Australians live with depression or anxiety, yet due to stigma, around two million of these people will not have access to professional support.
There are many well-known signs and symptoms to look out for to identify whether a friend, colleague, acquaintance or ANYONE is struggling. However, in reality, depression and anxiety can show up in different and unexpected ways from individual to individual.
To add to the challenge, some people have a tremendous ability to hide their pain well. That being said, if you watch and listen carefully, you might find some cues that your friend isn’t coping as well as they appear. Here are some depression and anxiety symptoms to look out for:
As a result, they may also have reduced productivity. Further to this, they may start to become uncharacteristically moody.
Feelings of anger, irritability, lack of confidence, sadness and hopelessness are also potential symptoms.
While it’s normal for anyone to be off now and then, if you notice these signs a lot, just check in with them and explore what’s going on.
Often individuals who are struggling with a mental health challenge will have some physical changes. These usually include feeling tired all the time, getting sick or run down often and experiencing regular headaches.
Chest pains (especially with anxiety) are a common one. Take note if your friend ever says they feel like they have a tight chest or racing heart.
Difficulty sleeping, pains in the stomach and eating habits changing (eating too much or too little) are also very common symptoms and ones that I have experienced myself in the past.
People struggling with depression and anxiety may display a change in body language. Moreover, they may not be able to sit still, they may seem tense or on edge even when there is no obvious trigger or ‘threat’ around.
If you notice any of the symptoms discussed to date in yourself or someone else, that could definitely be your trigger to reach out and explore what’s going on.
Asking something along the lines of, “I sense that you haven’t been yourself lately, how are you going?” is a good way to open up the conversation.
You don’t need to be a mental health professional to save someone’s life. Do not underestimate the power of human connection – by simply indicating to someone that you care, that you are prepared to help them, can be hugely powerful.
One of the hardest things we must do is to simply be present and to listen without going into a, “I have to fix this person” mindset.
To simply walk beside someone (think about the journey, not the destination) during their time of struggle is what it is all about.
If you are reading this and you are struggling to reach out and ask for help, remember, you are not a burden and people do care.
Do it for yourself and, if not for you, do it for the people who love you. Cats might have nine lives, but you’ve only got one – if in doubt, reach out so that your one life can be the best it can possibly be.
Words by Sam Webb. Imagery via @official.looperapp
If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety or depression, head to www.livin.org for information.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be used to medically diagnose anxiety or depression. Please seek help from your GP if you are concerned about any potential symptoms or feelings you may be experiencing.
Sam Webb is the co-founder of the mental health organisation and charity Livin and has received notable recognition for his mission to break the stigma around mental health through fashion, events and the delivery of education programs into schools across Australia. He is also an actor and was also featured in Season 1 of Australian Survivor, finishing sixth in 2016. Sam and the Livin team deliver a program called LIVINWELL into schools across the country and the US around the mantra, “It Ain’t Weak to Speak”.