Tips for approaching loved ones who appear to be struggling during pandemic

Helping people cope with coronavirus related concerns, the Crisis Text Line found that the top three issues for people now involve anxiety, depression and relationships.

“There’s science behind what we do, and so we can see what works in taking people from a hot moment to a cool calm,” Crisis Text Line co-founder and CEO Nancy Lublin said.

Lublin said data show people are feeling overwhelmed and anxious because they feel the pandemic is an unpredictable, all-encompassing looming thing.

They might be worrying, for example, about what’s going to happen with their careers, a relationship’s future or what will happen when school starts in the fall.

“And, we’ve noticed that using words like today and tomorrow and this weekend — shorter time bursts” helps, Lublin said.

“Instead, saying: ‘What are you going to do tonight to stay strong? What’s your plan tomorrow for food?’ Shorter time horizons give people a sense of control and calm and strength.”

Another suggestion from Lublin is to reconnect with people from your past, such as a childhood friend who moved away or with people you might not see frequently, such as cousins you typically see only at Thanksgiving.

Lublin said the word “reconnect” is showing up a lot, copresenting with the words “family” and “friends.”

“Reconnecting is not creepy right now; it’s actually lovely. It’s a chance to bond, to think back on happier times and reflect and celebrate and find joy in each other, ” Lublin said.

“Reconnecting is a wonderful source of strength right now.”

Another source of comfort and strength for people now is pets. Lublin said dogs get mentioned twice as frequently as cats.

“It’s a strong dog moment,” Lublin said. “I think because you also get outside and walk your dog, your dog is playful whereas I think a lot of cats are looking at their humans and saying, ‘What are you doing in my house?’” Lublin mused.

If you’re worried about friends or family members who may seem despondent or appear to be struggling, Lublin recommends discussing it with them beginning with an expression of care such as, “I really care about you, or your smile really lights me up, or you’re my favorite person.”

And then, emphasizing that it’s never harmful or suggestive to ask someone, Lublin recommends you say, “Are you thinking dark thoughts? How are you feeling on a scale of one to five?”

“Saying: How you doing? That’s a hard question. I don’t even know where to begin with that one. But, saying how are you feeling on a scale of one to five — I can pick a number,” Lublin said.

How do you know when you might need to reach out for help?

Lublin said no issue is too small. Perhaps you’re feeling alone, or angry, or frustrated or don’t know what to do.

“If it’s a crisis to you, it’s a crisis to us,” Lublin said, adding that you should not hesitate to reach out.

How can you tell you might need to use the Crisis Text Line?

“Reaching out to us, you’re not only getting help for yourself — you’re doing your part to reduce stigma and normalize mental health,” Lublin noted. “It’s heroic, reaching out.”

The Crisis Text Line is always looking for volunteers to keep it going.

“We’re looking for what we’ve nicknamed ’empathy MVPs,'” Lublin said.

To support the text line as a counselor, you can apply online, need to be older than 18 years old, go through a background check and need to take and pass 30 hours of training — about 33% of applicants fail.

“If you pass, you can be a crisis counselor any time, any place. It’s almost like being a Lyft or Uber driver — you do it when you’re available, wherever you are,” Lublin said.

But, “It’s much more difficult than being a Lyft or Uber driver.”

For free anonymous help, text the word CRISIS to 741-741.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up