There's a saying "Talk is cheap." That could be further from the truth. Talking is a good thing. Talking about mental health can stop the issue from getting worse.
When you help the people in your life to open up about what they're going through, it encourages them to speak freely about their feelings and thoughts. Speaking with you becomes their “safe space” where they won’t be judged.
Starting a Conversation About Mental Health
Starting a conversation about mental health can be uneasy and hard, but it shouldn’t be. You don’t have to have a psychology degree to talk to someone about their mental state. Just showing empathy and concern can make a vast difference in their lives.
If you aren’t sure where to start the conversation, check out these suggestions to get the conversation started:
“Are you okay?” – When you ask this question, ask it like you mean it. Let the person know that they have your full attention.
“How are you, really?” – Sometimes a person will say they’re fine when it’s obvious they aren’t. Look for the warning signs to know when the individual may need someone to talk to about what’s going on in their lives.
“Do you want to take a walk?” – Engaging someone you’re concerned about in an activity like taking a walk or going for a cup of coffee can be a good way to start a conversation. It can take some of the discomfort and difficulty out of the conversation.
“I’ve noticed that…” – You can start the conversation by mentioning noticeable changes in someone’s behavior. For example, “I’ve noticed that you haven’t been answering your phone and avoiding everyone lately.” Then, show real concern.
Are you thinking about suicide?” - If you feel someone is thinking about suicide, ask the question straightforwardly. Asking a person if they have been considering suicide or have made plans to commit suicide won’t increase the chance they will do it.
Share your Personal Experience
One big hindrance to asking for help is being seen as different or singled out. Meaning, a person will just suffer in silence instead of seeking the necessary support to get well.
One major way you can help is by talking about your own experience regarding mental health. This will make the person feel understood.
It may take some time for the person to feel comfortable talking to you about their mental state and what they are going through. There may be times they aren’t that talkative.
You need to be patient and understand that's part of the process. When someone is experiencing a mental health issue, it's difficult to be sociable. Deep down, they most likely appreciate you caring enough to stay in touch even if they aren’t very responsive.
Keep it Simple
When someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, they’re still the same person they were before. When a friend or loved one opens up about their mental health issue, you don’t treat them differently. To offer support, keep it simple. Meaning, do the things you usually do.