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Are You Ok?

How to help the people we care about

For a lot of reasons, many of us are feeling anxious about so much in our lives. And many of us care about people who are stressed and depressed. It’s understandable; the problems we see around us every day can be overwhelming and we can easily find ourselves not knowing what to say to someone we are worried about. At Cultures of Dignity, our intern Asher Edelman recently wrote a white paper on the stigma of mental health. We believe what he found was important to share.

According to the American Psychological Association’s 2018 report on Stress, Gen Z  (people age 21 and under) are suffering from anxiety on the following topics:

  • 75% of Gen Z is stressed by mass shootings
  • 62% of Gen Z is stressed by the rise in suicide rates
  • 58% of Gen Z is stressed by climate change/global warming
  • 57% of Gen Z is stressed by separation/deportation of immigrant/migrant families
  • 53% of Gen Z is stressed by widespread sexual harassment and assault reports
  • 35% of Gen Z is stressed by bullying/interpersonal conflict
  • 33% of Gen Z is stressed by personal debt
  • 21% of Gen Z is stressed by substance abuse in their family

Feeling stressed about these things makes sense. These are big problems. It’s OK to be worried – we are at Cultures of Dignity. But we can’t stop there. We need to support each other as we address these problems and take care of each other as we do it.

Stigma is a major barrier standing between acknowledgment and support. We often don’t give the support we want because our fear of making mistakes or assumptions silences us. We can’t stand by and say nothing. People we care about are hurting. The stakes are too high. So how can we reach out in a way that helps?

Removing the stigma of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues is critical for our collective and individual emotional well-being.

Here are some ideas to remember:

  • People want to be seen for who they are and their experiences. We can have opinions but judgments are usually not welcome.

  • When people are upset, they may not want advice right away. Often they just want to vent. So if you’re someone who likes to do lists and getting things done, be careful you don’t go into well-meaning fix it mode.

  • There’s no shame in recognizing that some problems are too big to handle on our own.

  • Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.

And here’s what we can say to each other if we are worried:

  • I could be wrong, but are you ok? I just wanted to check in on how you’re doing.

  • You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to but I am here to listen if you want.

  • There’s nothing wrong with needing help sometimes. We all need support sometimes.

  • Is there anything I can do to help?

If they share painful feelings or experiences with you, acknowledge them and thank them for the trust they are placing in you.

Remember, dignity is seeing someone’s worth. When we see people struggling we are treating them with dignity when we acknowledge their experience and reach out to them. Recognizing the dignity in each of us is the key to believing it’s possible to solve these problems and be the comfort we all need in each other.

We need to educate ourselves and others, learn how to effectively support others without letting stigma hinder us, and to treat others with dignity, no matter the state of their mental health. – Asher Edelman, 17


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This originally appeared in our newsletter Communiquette

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People we care about are hurting. The stakes are too high. So how can we reach out in a way that helps?