More than a year of various lockdowns and isolation has taken its toll on the nation, with figures from The Mental Health Foundation showing that feelings of loneliness rose to 26% in February this year .
Over the past year the only source of connection with others for so many has been a phone call or text, but often this form of communication only tells half the story. With Mental Health Awareness Week taking place from 10th – 16th May, we partnered with leading wellbeing expert, Danny Sangha, to share advice on how to tell from a simple text or call if someone you love may need a listening ear.
1. Listen out for any changes in usual energy levels
A drop in energy levels or lethargy can often be a tell-tale sign that someone is struggling with their mental health. Danny says: “Even by phone you can feel energy that someone typically gives off and so you should pick up when this level is off. Not just low, but erratic or inconsistent. If so, it's worth spending more time on the phone to better understand what's going on.”
2. Go beyond “are you OK?”
When chatting with someone over the phone or text, we miss visual cues like body language to tell us that someone may not be feeling their best. Because of this, it’s even more important to encourage deeper conversations.
According to Danny, going beyond asking if someone is OK can help: “When someone tells you, they are 'OK', delve a little deeper with some further questions without being intrusive. We often have an auto-response to reply with an 'OK' whenever we are asked how we are. Ask them how their day is going and any specific incidents or activities that are going on. You'll get a better insight into what 'OK' really means.”
3. Keep an eye on social media
This may not be the case for everyone, but if you know someone you love is particularly active on social media and you notice a sudden drop, this may be a sign to reach out for a chat.
Danny adds: “If someone seems to have become less active on social media or is connecting with you less frequently, reach out and check in on them. If you're finding that they're not responding, find an excuse to pop round and ensure they are OK or check in with your wider common circle of friends to get a better picture of what might be going on.”
Sometimes, all we need when we’re feeling down is someone to simply listen. According to Danny, this can be a great help to someone who’s struggling: “If someone is sounding distressed and in need of help, listen actively and give them the time to share what's going on. Don't be quick to respond with solutions or your views, just listen. Sometimes all they need is to know that they have been heard, understood and that you're there for them.”
5. Speak to a professional if needed
Importantly, if you think someone is showing serious signs of poor mental health, it’s vital to try and encourage them to seek professional help.
Danny says: “If they're showing signs of depression or talking of self-harm, or anything along these lines, you must encourage them to reach out to a qualified mental health practitioner and/or their GP. If it sounds like they are imminently in danger of harming themselves then establish where they are and call the emergency services to let them know what's going on.”
Richard Gray, Head of Marketing and Digital at insurance2go, commented: “When so many of us are separated from friends and families, often the only thing keeping us connected is a phone call, video call or even a quick text. While these are great for maintaining some sense of connection, the lack of face-to-face interaction can make it easy to miss signs that a friend or loved one may need a little more than a quick hello.
“This Mental Health Awareness Week we encourage everyone to pick up the phone to someone they haven’t seen for a while and simply check in for a chat. Ask how they are then ask again, you never know how much it might brighten up their day.”