How to recognize the need for mental health in yourself,
family members, or friends —
and what to say when you’re ready to reach out
Moving to a new locale often creates a jumble of emotions. There’s the excitement of possibility — a new home, new neighborhood, new friends, new activities, a new job, and new things to see and do. But there’s also that twinge of sadness associated with leaving behind the comfort of old friends, maybe family, and long-established routines. And moving itself is stressful with the planning, packing, unpacking, setting up utilities, enrolling kids in new schools, finding new health care providers, grocery stores, and other services.
It’s important for us to embrace these conflicting feelings. They’re a natural part of the moving process. But it’s also important to recognize when you might be experiencing more than a temporary sense of sadness caused by all the changes moving brings.
Many people experience anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges at some point in their lives. When this happens, knowing you’re not alone can help. But sometimes it can be difficult to share that you’re struggling or to ask someone you care about if they are — especially in the midst of so much change. Yet, it’s important to take this step — not only so you or someone else can get the care they need, but so that all of us can help end the stigma of mental health.
“It is a societal group effort to try to normalize mental health concerns,” said Sara Vogel, MD, a psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente in Colorado. She sees the recent global conversations led by superstar athletes like Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka, and countless other well-known figures as a major step toward ending the stigma of mental health.
Everyone’s experience with mental health issues is different, but there are some general signs you can look out for in yourself and others, Dr. Vogel said, including:
- A change in performance at work or school
- Changes in interactions with loved ones
- Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Fatigue or low energy
- Problems focusing or remembering
- Social isolation
- Changes in appetite and/or weight
- Thoughts of death, suicide, or hopelessness
- Alcohol or drug use or dependence
Additional signs in kids and teens can include irritability, self-harm, and recurring physical symptoms, like stomachaches.
If you are concerned about someone you care about, one way to start a conversation is to bring up the subject in a casual, open-ended manner. Ask, “How have you been doing lately?” or “I noticed you haven’t attended your new book club in a while. Is everything OK?”
“Then just see where the person takes it,” Dr. Vogel said. “You’re not looking to interrogate someone. You’re trying to help them give permission to take the conversation a little further, opening the door, letting them know it’s a safe space.”
Listen with an open mind, reassure them they’re not alone, and ask how you can support them. Depending on your comfort level, you can also inquire whether they’ve thought about reaching out to a professional for help.
If you’re worried about your own well-being, Kaiser Permanente offers an online self-assessment through our Find Your Words initiative, which empowers people to ask for help and to speak out about mental health.
Kaiser Permanente believes so strongly in the importance of mental health as part of your whole health that we’ve embedded behavioral health specialists in most of our Colorado medical offices, so members can connect with a specialty provider, if necessary, without a referral. We also offer many ways to get help online, by phone, or in person. It’s also why the Kaiser Permanente Colorado Institute for Health Research is dedicated to improving the understanding and management of mental health conditions.
“We try to help make it as user-friendly as possible,” Dr. Vogel said. “When you’re in crisis, everything can be so overwhelming, and trying to Google information and figure out what phone number to call, that may be too much.”
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