Psychological help is crucial for a person experiencing mental health issues such as stress, anxiety or depression. It is as important as providing psychological assistance to help recover oneself from life’s major tragedies. When life hits us hard or challenges the stability of one’s mind, we must reach out to the individual in need of psychological assistance. It is the responsibility of the society to address these issues and offer support to such individuals.
Symptoms Of Depression
- A feeling of sadness that lasts more than two weeks
- Lack of interest for the things you enjoy/love to do
- Intense fatigue
- Pessimistic thoughts
- Lack of confidence
- Suicidal tendency
- Fluctuation or loss of appetite, sleep and body weight
- Lack of sexual interest
- Mood variations during different times
HOW TO PROVIDE FIRST AID
If you save a drowning man by pulling him out of water and then rush him to the hospital nearby instead of giving him first-aid , it would still increase his chances of death. A person who has had a near-drowning episode needs first aid to regain normal breathing before any actual treatment. Only this could save his life.
For every casualty man encounters, the society can provide various early-stage interventions that could save his life. Here, a question arises as to what could be the possible emergency treatment given to a depressed mind?
Often a person who is stuck in his life’s circumstances feels suffocated by his own worries and anxieties that he finds his life at a standstill. In such times, one feels that his suffering is similar to that of a drowning man. Except that he feels suffocated by his own feelings and emotions and looks death in the eye making it no less than the trauma experienced by a drowning man.
Thus, it becomes important to deviate one’s mind from the traumatic experiences in life which would otherwise slip into serious psychological disorders resulting in suicidal tendencies. The secret of psychological assistance is to have a supportive friend who understands and stays. Opening up to an empathetic person who listens without judgements, pouring out one’s deepest buried woes into whimpering feels as calm and relieved as regaining breath after being drowned.
This ventilation of the mind will give the clarity to link with life. Depending on the nature of the crisis, this reassurance may also have the potential to lead one to seek social assistance or mental health assistance. Any person who is willing to do a humane and practical approach to emotionally support a person with mental health issues can do so but it should be limited to certain codes of ethics.
To Tackle Depression- LOOK, LISTEN , LINK
This can serve as a model for how to deal with the most common form of depression. Remember that you are adopting the Look, Listen and Link method.
Identify depressed, deal with an empathetic mind that understands suffering, be a good listener, look for suicidal thoughts or tendencies in the depressed person, and build confidence and trust. These methods could act as an effective way and serve as the first aid for depression.
It is not difficult to identify if a friend/ acquaintance has fallen into an abyss. We need to be more observant and learn to have an eye for the lonely and depressed around us. There will be visible changes in the body language that indicates despair and hopelessness. Lethargy and fatigue may be evident. Misunderstanding and guilt can shadow their speech. A feeling of hope may be lost from their heart. It can be difficult for them to concentrate or make decisions. Movement may become slow. For some the behavior may become worrying or disturbing. They may cry over trivial things. They may have thoughts to end their life. Some may have made preparations to do it. Many experience insomnia, while some others experience oversleeping. Loss of appetite resulting in weight loss is also another symptom. Some over eat to overcome depression. Don’t trivialize depression. Don’t neglect the symptoms. Do not turn a blind eye to the signs.
Let’s Listen Patiently
There is a myth that depression can become complicated if you ask someone if they are upset. When we get the opportunity to share our despair , the feeling is eased. The mind of a depressed person will be brimming with sorrow. If there is someone who can listen to his/her with sensitivity and compassion, it could help them to open their mind. That will help them release the bottled up burden they carry in their minds. It is important to listen to their worries. One should ensure privacy and listen patiently in a calm and peaceful environment. Do not try to interrupt the flow of their emotional conflicts that occur while sharing thoughts. Let it be expressed without any hindrance.
Even silence between the words should be allowed as it has lot of hidden meanings. Do not put in your interpretations. Do not be judgmental. Just listen with compassion. It may seem like there is no need to fall into depression for the reasons mentioned. But do not try to belittle the problems of a depressed person. One has to accept the reality that a person is depressed as these are matters that worry him. One’s words or deeds should never echo that depression is a weakness, failure, or crime. Avoid advising. After you have patiently listened, summarize what you understood . It gives them a feeling that you listened carefully and creates a trust.
When a person feels hopeless or that he has no use for his life, it increases the risk of suicidal tendencies. Find out if they constantly feel the urge to end their lives when they encounter a problem. The question of whether or not such a question would be a stimulus to do so is irrelevant. Recognizing such a tendency would help in persuading them to abandon such thoughts. Understanding the unsaid words that were hidden deep in the heart might bring a sense of reassurance to the depressed person. It is also important to adhere to the principle of confidentiality.
There are many types of crises that challenges our mind. Losses, catastrophes, and relationship failures can all take place in our lives. Sometimes, one may also need to offer further professional help and support to such persons going through mental health issues. It is important to understand where government funding and other welfare measures are available in case of disaster. When the mind becomes overwhelmed with instability, one needs to guide the person to seek help from the best medical and scientific treatments. If the person is more prone to be a part of potential disaster spaces then measures must be taken to connect them with associated safety systems. Victims of sexual assault should be acquainted with the Justice Department. Caretakers that provide support and assistance to persons with dementia or serious mental illness should be acquainted with appropriate Ngos. There are many such links, that may be necessary once you listen to a person in distress. During the process of providing psychological first aid, one must also collect maximum possible information on such things. One must have the ability to self analyze to see whether he/she is capable to undertake such tasks. When helping with the problems of the minds of others, one needs to be careful not to let down their own mind.
It could be argued that our social structure itself has the power to provide first-hand help when our close friends and relatives feel overwhelmed with grief. It can also be argued that prayers and other rituals performed by a believer during crisis are self-help measures. Performing funeral rites and subsequent rituals can be said to be psychological strategies to cope with grief. The moral advice given to Arjun, who became crippled on the battlefield of Kurukshetra is a classic example of lifting one’s spirits which goes beyond the level of first aid and is synonymous with various dimensions of psychotherapy.
In Australia, two per cent of the population needs to know about mental health first aid because of the lack of family social support mechanisms . In Kerala are we in a better position? Suicide rates rise above twenty-four per lakh, divorce rates soar, and mental conflicts among elderly and children increase. The downside of not getting psychological first aid services for those in need of help is quite obvious. The built in mechanisms in families that gives tender loving care is fading away.
Hence, we need first aid systems for mental health. To an extent, pain and palliative care satisfy these needs. People who are currently engaging in social issues can ensure their involvement. And their mind must be moulded in such a way as to provide assistance.
We must remember that offering help to those in need can take place at any stage in life or we must have done it in numerous ways in our lives so far. It could be as simple as helping a friend overcome his exam fears. It could be someone who is suffering due to economic issues the covid has created. There are many people like this among us who are in need of emotional support. Let us recognize those suffering minds. Provide them with Psychological First Aid. Perhaps we could prevent a suicide or motivate a person to seek help before it becomes a disorder and drowns him . Let us spread the message that mental illness is just like any other illness that affects our body. Make others speak out their distress and let us turn our ears to listen to them.
(Shifna Muhammed Shukkur’s Translation of an article in Malayalam written by Dr C J John, Psychiatrist)