How to make sure you’re heard

111 Linda Blair

We all know mental health problems are rife now, and only set to rise. It’s no wonder – after six months of living a radically different lifestyle, we face further uncertainty, the possibility of more restrictions, and for many, loss of jobs and income.

Suicide Prevention Australia warns the true impact of COVID-19 is yet to be seen.Credit:Sylvia Liber

A survey of 16,338 people by the UK mental health charity MIND in April and May found that half of adults and over two thirds of young people – particularly those with eating disorders, personality disorders and OCD – have experienced a worsening of their conditions. Respondents attributed this primarily to the imposed restrictions both social and physical.

More worryingly, one in three adults and one in four young people didn’t try to access mental health services because they didn’t think they deserved support. Of those who did, one in four failed to receive help. Meanwhile, the most common coping strategies were over- or under-eating, using alcohol or drugs, self-harming, and, thankfully, connecting with family and friends online.

Although connecting online has been a popular coping technique, a number of respondents said phone/video technology was a reason they didn’t access mental health services. It seems we feel comfortable talking this way with those we know, but less so with professionals we’ve not met. This suggests mental health services should offer help to small groups of people who already know one another rather than to individuals.

There’s also a need for assertiveness among those who’d like help. After all, although one in four in the survey who sought help didn’t receive it, that leaves three in four who did.

If you’re feeling depressed, particularly if you’re also suffering low self-esteem, it’s common to assume you’re not “worthy” of support.

But the truth is, we inflict more suffering to ourselves, and risk lowering self-esteem even further, when we’re not explicit about our needs, as Keith Petrie and Mary Jane Rotheram at Massey University in New Zealand found.

They asked 106 firefighters to record levels of occupational stress and general anxiety. Stress levels didn’t vary significantly according to participants’ job rank, job experience or personal life circumstances. However, those who were more assertive had higher self-esteem and reported significantly lower stress.

How can you become more assertive so you can seek the help you deserve?

Be prepared Write down what you intend to say. Is your request clear and precise? Then practise it – out loud – until you feel confident.

Pay attention to the words you use Instead of complaining or blaming others, explain what you want in positive terms. Make your request clear and specific, without apology.

Persevere Everyone is currently under pressure and may be slow to respond. Keep asking, politely but persistently.

The Telegraph, London



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