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Amid the hustle and bustle of life, we find ourselves dealing with so many things at a time. In an ever-changing world that never seems to stop, life can get stressful and overwhelming, especially for those who suffer from Anxiety Disorders. According to Our World in Data, an estimated 284 million people suffered from an anxiety disorder in 2017 globally, making it the most prevalent mental health disorder. Around 62% of those suffering from anxiety were female (170 million) compared with 105 million male sufferers. Thus, as residents of a housing society, it is our responsibility to care for our neighbours. Building an atmosphere that places importance on community mental health is a vital aspect of society management.
At one point or other in our lives, we have all experienced some form of anxiety – whether it was before an exam, a job interview, or a big presentation. It is completely natural to feel anxious as it helps us to see potential threats and keeps us from getting deceived. However, some people experience this intensely, leading to various symptoms that may be exhibited by the person. Anxiety disorders show in several forms like panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, phobia, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and separation anxiety disorder.
Symptoms for Anxiety Disorder
World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) records recurring symptoms of:
(a) Apprehension (worries about future misfortunes, feeling “on edge”, difficulty in concentrating, etc.).
(b) Motor tension (restless fidgeting, tension headaches, trembling, inability to relax).
(c) Automatic overactivity (light-headedness, sweating, tachycardia or tachypnoea, epigastric discomfort, dizziness, dry mouth, etc).
According to Mental Health First Aid, some other signs and symptoms of anxiety include muscle aches/pains, distress in social situations, mind racing, fatigue, vivid dreams etc. It is crucial to understand that while these symptoms are common with people suffering from anxiety disorder, they also differ from person to person. Identifying these signs and symptoms help us recognize a person who suffers from an anxiety disorder. It is also the first step towards contributing to community mental health.
In fact, a study conducted by Emily A. Greenfield and Laurent Reyes published in the September issue of The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences found that continuity in the neighbour relationship was especially important for more developmental aspects of psychological well-being and overall community mental health. The research showed that people who reported low quantities of neighbour relationships rated themselves worse over time in terms of aspects of well-being concerning feelings of purpose in life, personal growth, autonomy, environmental mastery, self-acceptance, and positive relations with others.
Clearly, neighbours form an integral part in maintaining community mental health. If you are a neighbour of someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder or displays any of the above-mentioned symptoms, here are 5 ways in which you can help them:
1. Make something for them
Now when we ask you to make them something, we do not mean making over-the-top grand gestures or going out of your way to make them feel good. You could just cook some of their favourite food or snacks and bring it over to their place, make a virtual playlist of their favourite songs, or offer them fresh flowers from your garden/house plants. Many times, small gestures like these can go a long way in making someone feel loved and supported, further stimulating the spirit of community mental health.
2. Help them out with their chores
Often, there are possibilities that people with anxiety disorders may procrastinate or put off doing something simply because it can seem quite overwhelming to them. In such situations, we can offer to help them out with their chores like taking their pet outside for a walk, watering their outdoor plants, getting them groceries or cleaning, and organizing their room. This can establish a trust between you and your neighbour and lets them know that they can always depend on you in times of adversity or need. This also helps reinforce faith in the community and strengthens the community mental health.
3. Check up on them regularly
It is essential to check up on someone with anxiety disorders to keep a track of how they are feeling. Invite them over for a cup of coffee/tea and try to initiate a healthy conversation where they can feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, emotions etc. You do not have to be over-intrusive but keeping it light and engaging is the key. Create a space in which they can let their guard down and be vulnerable. If there is something that you cannot help them with, or feel their condition worsening, then politely suggest or hint towards the fact that they can always access professional help whenever they want. Be absolutely non-judgemental when they are expressing their troubles because sometimes, a good listener is all they need. Do not give unsolicited advice if you are not sure of it. Instead, ask them what they want to hear or how they want to handle the situation.
4. Make them feel included
During society parties, festival celebrations or any event, you can help them feel comfortable. If you see them sitting in a corner, or if they seem a little shut off and uncomfortable, go up to them and encourage them to interact with people, but only if they are okay with that. If they seem overwhelmed or disturbed by loud music or the crowd, then take them to a quieter place and ask them what you can do to make sure they feel safe and relaxed. Dr James Gregory, in a study published in ScienceDaily states that ‘good neighbours, good design and good management are all important for wellbeing as a person’s tenure or tenancy.’
5. Do activities with them
A person with an anxiety disorder might get entangled in their own web of thoughts, due to which they may stay cooped up in their home. You can just take them out of their headspace by asking them to join you for a walk around the neighbourhood, as a little bit of fresh air and exercise can improve their mood, boost their energy levels and decrease their stress. When it comes to community mental health and wellbeing, the research from ScienceDaily further showed that the most crucial part of the home is the social fabric of the neighbourhood in which it’s embedded.
Multiple studies have shown that the current Covid-19 pandemic has brought a multitude of mental health issues. According to the World Health Organization, bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing conditions. Therefore, it is essential for neighbours and society members to come together and show our support for one another during such times. We must foster a strong foundation for community mental health by creating a healthy and positive environment. Society management is not only about managing finances and protecting the society premises, but also about striving to make all the residents feel safe, sound and happy.