"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." - Mother Theresa of Calcutta

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a difficult year. Natural disasters, killer insects and a global pandemic threaten countless lives around the world. Political unrest and terrorism are climbing, while the stock market is in free fall.

Whether these events are affecting you directly or not, it's easy to understand why a person might feel an increase in mental stress as a result of these difficult times. Uncertainty about the future and concern for others can create strong emotions. While we protect our bodies from COVID-19 by wearing masks and social distancing, our minds may start to feel isolated and lonely.

If we're all going to get through this, we need to watch out for each other. Friends who don't normally struggle with mental illness may show signs of depression or anxiety. Family members who are usually temperate may turn to the bottle to manage mental distress. It is a cruel irony of mental anguish that the worse one's condition becomes, the more difficult it can be to ask for help. So, we must keep an eye on those around us, watching for moments when we are needed.

Mayo Clinic lists a number of signs that a friend or loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression:

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  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming him or herself for things that aren't their responsibility
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent mention of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

American Addiction Centers have identified several common signs of alcohol abuse:

  • Lack of control over how much one drinks and for how long
  • Preference to drink alone, in secret, or during odd times, such as the morning
  • Continuing to drink despite interpersonal, physical and psychological problems related to it
  • Depression, irritability and mood swings, plus a tendency to argue with friends and family members
  • Drinking to cope with problems, to relax, to sleep or to boost mood

You know that Homeland Security slogan, "If you see something, say something"? Well, it applies to mental security, too. If you notice any of the above behavioral changes in those around you, I hope you'll care enough to say something. A person may not realize they have a problem. By bringing up what you've noticed and suggesting your loved one get help, you could be saving their life.

As Mother Theresa noted, we belong to each other. People are not meant to be solitary, and we need the support of others to make it through trying times. Here's to a community effort to look around with compassion and offer a hand to our neighbors.