Reaching out and seeking help when a loved one is struggling

Reaching out and seeking help when a loved one is struggling

by Jennifer Brown
Stripes Korea

Editor’s note: At Stripes Korea, we love to share your stories and share this space with our community members. Here is an article written by Jennifer Brown, a hospital corpsman at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa. If you have a story or photos to share, let us know at


When it comes to small talk, we can easily become pros at it. In fact, we can become so good that we can automatically generate the right response so that people won’t probe too deeply into our personal lives. Instead of speaking up about what is bothering us, we try to avoid the discussion. However, no matter how skilled we are at avoiding the subject, talking out our internal struggles is a key to improving our well-being. Identifying the signs and symptoms of struggle in others can be tricky, but there are three tell-tale ones that can help you spot an issue: withdrawal, mood swings and changes in appetite and sleep.

Although there have been some changes, there is still a stigma around mental health and mental illness which can prevent people from seeking help or even offering it to those who may desperately need it. If your loved one starts to exhibit some of the abovementioned signs, it may be good to offer help or seek help for them if you’re not sure how to go about it.

When a person begins to withdraw from others, it may at first be done as a coping mechanism. However, keep an eye out for when withdrawal crosses a line and the person avoids their social circle and activities they enjoy. Withdrawal can also be withdrawing internally even when you are around the individual. An example would be someone who seems distracted or even disassociated from the current moment. While dissociation can be normal at times, if it seems to interfere with daily living, it might be a warning side that someone is struggling.

Another signal of struggling are mood swings. While shifts in our mood are normal, it is the long-lasting ones that point to something a little more serious. For instance, someone who is usually more reserved and quieter in social settings may gradually start to become anxious and on edge. Similar to withdrawal, when the mood changes are impacting someone’s well-being it may be time to check in with someone to see what is going on.

Finally, one more signal are changes in sleep or appetite. Both of these can be symptoms of many different ailments including stress, so that’s why talking it out might help decipher what might actually be the problem. If the person struggling recently lost their job, for instance, the last thing on their mind might be eating something as their concerns are bills and finding another job. Sleeping too much or too little is also a signal someone might be avoiding their struggles or may be physically and emotionally exhausted from dealing with them.

Whether you’re the one dealing with any of these ailments or you have a loved one who is, remember that reaching out, getting help or offering it is not a sign of weakness. Struggling is a part of being human and sometimes it takes a fellow human to help recognize in ourselves where we need support.


Jennifer Brown is a hospital corpsman at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa. Originally from Florida, she joined the Navy in 2018 and has been on the island for over a year. During her free time, Brown enjoys spending time with animals, running, rock climbing, and hiking. She is an alumnus of the University of Central Florida and holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Her professional interests include social work, animal welfare, and children.

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