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How to Start (and Continue) a Conversation About Mental Health

How to Start (and Continue) a Conversation About Mental Health

8th – 14th September is National Suicide Prevention Week. We want to emphasis this week that you don’t need to be a doctor to have an open, authentic conversation about mental health. Often, just talking about it can be the first vital step in understanding where someone is with their mental health, and helping them get support or treatment if needed.

Here are some quick pointers you can use for having a #RealConvo with the people in your life.

  • Let people know you’re willing to talk about mental health.

Being open about your own mental health is the best way to show people they can too.

You could say:

“I’ve had times in my life when I’ve struggled. I went to talk to someone, and it really helped me.”

A casual reference like the one above can have a powerful effect, letting others know you’re a safe person to talk to if they ever need to reach out.

What can you say to someone you think may be struggling?

Trust your gut. If you think someone’s having a hard time, speak to them privately. Start with an expression of care, followed by an observation.

You could say:

“I care about you and I’ve noticed you haven’t been yourself lately. You seem more frustrated than usual, and I was wondering how you’re
doing.”

Normalize mental health by linking it to day-to-day issues.

“I wonder if what’s happening at work these days is stressing you out.”

“I thought you might be feeling overwhelmed with everything that’s going on with your family.”

Let them know that you get it, and that it’s okay and perfectly normal to struggle in response to life’s challenges.

You could say:

“I’ve been through things too, and what I’ve found is that talking about it helps. Whatever it is, I’m always here to listen and support you.”

The timing doesn’t have to be perfect

You may not always be able to speak with someone the moment you notice they might be struggling. It’s fine to circle back some other time soon.

You could say:

“I noticed you seemed anxious the other day. I made a mental note that I wanted to speak with you. I’m concerned about how you’re doing. Would you like to talk?”

Sometimes creating some space is the perfect thing to do. Let them know you can have the conversation when the time is right for them, when they are comfortable.

You could say:

“Can we grab some coffee and talk about it?”

What if they hesitate?

It’s common to feel that sharing how you feel will be a burden to others. They might say something like, “You must be sick of hearing about all of this,” or, “I don’t want to trouble you with my problems.”

You could say:

“Not only am I not sick of it, but I care about you and want to be there for you. I get that life is complicated – so I’m here to listen and support you.”

Would they be more comfortable talking to someone else?

If you suspect the other person might be more comfortable talking with someone else, you can offer to help connect them.

You could say:

“I know an excellent counselor or therapist who really helped me. Would you like me to get you their contact information?”

When the convo is winding down…

End the conversation by reiterating that you are so glad to have had the chance to connect on this deeper level regarding such meaningful things. Remind them that we all have challenges sometimes, and that you’ll continue to be there for them.

Well done! You’ve had a #RealConvo about Mental Health! How do you follow up?

Give yourself a pat on the back for having a #RealConvo with someone!

But don’t just leave it there. Follow up to let them know it was okay to open up, that you care, and that you’re still a “safe” person to talk to about mental health.

You could say:

“You know; you’ve been on my mind since we had that conversation the other day.”

“I’ve really been thinking about what we talked about. How’re you feeling since we spoke?”

Being available to have a #RealConvo about mental health is an important way we can all be there for the people in our lives, whether it’s a friend, family member, or someone in your community. All it takes is a willingness to be open, honest and present with the people you care about.

We all have mental health. Reach out and have a #RealConvo with someone in your life today.

Credit to: https://afsp.org/ – please visit their website for more information on suicide prevention. 

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