The stretch of time between the holidays and when winter finally breaks is a notoriously trying period; the cold, gray weather, lack of sunshine, and abundance of time spent indoors can easily bring down your spirits. Coupled with the fact that depression is on the rise in the U.S., especially among teenagers, we could all stand to learn a bit more about the signs of anxiety and depression, and how to spot them in loved ones (or even yourself).
"In New York City, coaches are working to recruit and train a kind of civilian mental-health army of 250,000 volunteers," reports Business Insider. "The hope is that people trained in 'mental-health first aid' will be better able to start conversations, lend a helping hand, and share compassion for friends, colleagues, neighbors and other fellow New Yorkers who are dealing with mental-health issues." BI science reporter Hilary Brueck actually attended one of these day-long trainings in order to get a sense of what becoming a mental-health vigilante actually entails.
In Brueck's opinion, one of the most useful things the group learned was the difference between someone experiencing a bad mood lasting a few days and a person with more serious, long-term depression, and how to spot the difference.
Fortunately, there's a simple checklist to help sort through the complexity. Ask yourself if a person's mental state is having an impact on their ability to accomplish the four L-words: live, laugh, learn, and love. "If these four pillars of life are feeling compromised by a persistent cloud of sorrow or indifference, it may be a sign that depression is at hand," she explains. This checklist falls in line with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders' definition of depression, which is "a condition lasting for more than two weeks and impacts a person's ability to go about their life, enjoying the activities that typically make them happy."
From there, you should defer to a mental-health professional, whether it be a psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor. A budget-friendly online service like TAO Connect, which is a digital platform aimed at making mental-health therapy more accessible, efficient, and effective, can also help someone suffering from depression or anxiety. For more long-term resources, head over to The National Institute of Mental Health.