The pandemic is hitting women harder than men in many ways. More are losing jobs, reporting feelings of depression and having increased caregiving duties. But a Northern Virginia counselor has advice for how men can step up as mental health allies for women.
“Men, what I recommend is, tell the women in your life, ‘What do you need from me?'” said Julie Isaacs, interim regional director of behavioral health for Kaiser Permanente in the Mid-Atlantic States. Isaacs has practices in Burke and Falls Church.
Questions Isaacs said men can ask women in their lives range from the general to specific.
- How can I be of help?
- Can I take out the garbage?
- Can I go to the grocery store?
- Can I cook or order dinner tonight?
- What can I do to make your life easier today?
- What can I do to take some things off your plate?
She recommends checking in daily.
Another way couples can help each other cope with pandemic-related adjustments: Not assuming the partner can read their mind.
“Women, don’t be afraid to tell the men in your life what you need,” Isaacs said. “If they’re not approaching you, it’s OK to walk up to the men that you love and say: ‘You know what? This is what I need.'”
Isaacs said men tend to be doers and fixers who try to ease situations the way they’d want it fixed for them, “instead of taking a moment and seeing that maybe the women that they love just want to be heard and listened to.”
Mental-health-boosting assistance and support may be as easy as men letting women have some space.
“Encourage women to have time to connect with other people in their lives, to be able to reach out and connect with friends, family, take a walk together, get out of the house,” Isaacs said.
As a couple, you also can plan activities together.
“Create a picnic while the weather’s still nice. Go apple picking. Go do an activity where you’re doing something together, and create some new memories,” Isaacs said.
Also, Isaacs stresses that if anyone you love is experiencing big changes in sleep or eating habits, losing interest in things they typically enjoy or expressing feelings of negativity, death or suicide, help them get help.
“There’s no shame in that,” she said.
You can find an interactive, depression self-assessment tool intended for people at least 18 years old offered by Kaiser Permanente here.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).