Hey, are you OK? Opening a dialogue about mental health with loved ones

It can be difficult to talk about anxiety and depression, but a Northern Virginia physiatrist believes tennis player Naomi Osaka leaving the French Open to tend to her mental health sends a strong positive message that it’s OK to ask for help.

“Remembering that even very, very powerful, successful athletes, role models, people in positions of power are sometimes struggling with mental health just as much as the average person sometimes can help people to be more willing to seek help,” Dr. Lauren Grawert, a psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente in Falls Church, said.

She applauds Osaka for choosing to go public.

“We can never do enough to emphasize the importance of talking about mental health,” Grawert said.

She hopes Osaka’s bravery can let people who are struggling with mental illness know it’s important to reach out for help, and that it also empowers their loved ones.

“Maybe just as important is — if you know somebody close to you who might be struggling — having the courage to have a courageous conversation,” Grawert said. “Reach out to be the first one to say, ‘Hey, are you doing OK? Are you struggling?’ and be the first one to open that dialogue.”

Mental health is as important as and closely connected to physical health, Grawert said.

She highly recommends people explore resources available at Findyourwords.org.

“It’s a great website if people are just building up the courage to ask for help. It’s a great place to get the building blocks to start with,” she said.

It has tips on asking for help, signs and symptoms of depression, phone numbers, resources for building resilience and managing stress, and it offers a crisis text line.

You can reach the crisis text line by texting “WORDS” to 741741, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number at 1-800-273-8255.

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.

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