If you suffer from stress-induced diagnoses such as depression, anxiety or panic attacks, you know there is another condition that usually tags along: shame. Face it – right now someone in your life is in crisis and you don’t even know it.

On any given day, we all experience ups and downs, highs and lows. When you’ve had a hard week, you might want to be a hermit all weekend. When you only have two more weeks until the big concert with your favorite artist, you might feel like you’re bouncing off the walls. When someone you know feels like that for months on end, it is likely they see it as personal weakness and never let on that they’re suffering.

The stigma of mental health conditions is extensive. Peter Byrne, a senior lecturer at East Kent NHS Community Trust in the United Kingdom, offers an excellent academic perspective (http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/6/1/65). In essence, mental health conditions are most often seen as an embarrassment, weakness or bogus claim – not only by others, but also by the people who live it on a daily basis.

My friend “Joe” from college thanked me recently for having the courage to share my personal experience with depression in an earlier blog. He then told me he’s suffered with it for decades but never told his friends because he was ashamed.

In the grand scheme, education is the most effective tool to create positive change for the mental health community. If you know someone suffering from a mental health condition personally, the best advice I can give you is this:

Do Your Research – Go to a credible online source like the National Institutes of Health (http://nih.gov) and learn about the symptoms of the condition.

Be sympathetic – Realize that someone important to you needs support, not judgment or pushes to heal.

Know Your Limitations – Never offer help you aren’t willing to give without any hope of return, even in the form of their improved health.

Know Your Advice Isn’t Gold – Sometimes people just need an ear, help with a project or a break from their routine. Their needs are more valuable than your opinion.

Focus On The Positive – People need to be reassured that they will get better. Applaud their search for help, emphasize their treatment successes no matter how small and gently remind them of the blessings in their lives.

If you think you might know someone with a mental health condition, do your best not to pour salt in what is already a painful wound. If you suggest they have a problem they may deny or resist it. I recommend you simply be sensitive to them and listen for anything that may suggest they are reaching out for help. Then just be there. It is at the lowest points in your life that you learn who truly cares about you. Care for them.

Author's Bio: 

Eve Rojas, MSSW, went through a deeply disturbing period in her life that caused a major depression. Although still suffering from the condition resulting from her experience, Eve believes strongly in the Holy Spirit within her and the promises of God, which exist beyond life’s trauma and stress. Eve shares the knowledge and skills she continues to develop each day to help you learn to shine your light and claim your inner strength so you can better manage life's ups and downs.

Eve Rojas relies on discernment and faith to follow the path in front of her and touch the souls of others. Eve possesses a Master of Science in Social Work with expertise in Social Enterprise Management from Columbia University. She also graduated with honors from Yale University.