Mental health has become more of a growing concern in recent years. There are television shows, podcasts, and broad pop-culture conversations about how to deal with mental health. The world has even begun to make mental health resources more accessible. Overall, addressing mental health is becoming more mainstream, meaning that more people can identify their concerns and find ways to navigate towards healing.
The question remains: how do you start having conversations about mental health? Whether it is with family members, friends, or a partner, opening up about your mental health is not an easy thing to do. On the other hand, asking about someone else’s mental health can be difficult as well. You want to show that you are there for them and that you support them, but at the same time, you want to be sensitive and not push too hard if they are not ready to share.
It takes courage to begin these conversations, so you should be proud of yourself for taking the first step. You are showing your empathy and respect for the person on the other side of the conversation.
Before talking about mental health, ensure you have enough time planned out for the conversation. This doesn’t mean you have to wait to schedule hours at a time, though. There is never a right or wrong moment to bring up mental health.
It is best to have uninterrupted time that avoids distractions and provides a quiet and safe space for people to share. If you feel it would be beneficial, find resources online that can guide the conversation. Many articles and resources can provide questions and prompts to prepare you.
It is also important to acknowledge that the conversation does not need to be in person. For many people, sharing their experiences in person is extremely challenging. While talking in person is great, it is not the only option. When discussing a new topic such as mental health, you may find it easier to text, email, FaceTime, or Zoom call. This allows both people to be comfortable in their own space while also avoiding any uncomfortable eye contact or nonverbal cues that would be seen in person.
Now that you are prepared to have a conversation about mental health, it is time to begin. One of the easiest ways to start is to ask someone how they’re doing. Ask intently and wait for a response. The goal is to ensure the other person knows that you are not asking just to be polite but because you genuinely want to know.
A good general rule is to ask twice. Try out this guide: first, ask, “how are you doing?” Then, you wait for a response, including a more direct prompt in the next question, such as “Seriously, how have you been? I noticed you’ve been distant while at work.” This will let the person know that you actively care about their feelings and mental health.
Actively listening plays a pivotal role in making people feel seen, heard, and cared for. Allow the person to take their time as they answer your questions. Remember, these conversations may take time to feel comfortable in. Allow room for each person to finish their sentences and complete their thoughts without interrupting. Try not to redirect the conversation back to yourself or your experiences. Instead, offer verbal or nonverbal cues to encourage continued support.
Now that you and the other person have taken time to share about their feelings, emotions, and mental health, it is time to reassure the other person that you understand. If the other person has finished talking, thank them for sharing, and let them know you understand. Now could be the time that you share some of your mental health experiences, as well. While doing this, be sure not to redirect the attention from the other person to yourself. The purpose of this action is to let them know that they are not alone.
If you don’t understand, that is okay. It is still appropriate to thank them for sharing. You can show that you support their mental well-being by doing research or simply asking them what they need at that moment. It is okay not to have all of the answers. You are likely not a licensed mental health professional. When beginning a conversation about mental health, starting is the most important part, and you’ve already done that!
Starting the conversation about mental health is pivotal to be more comfortable with seeking help. This is something that can save the lives of others. Many people have a busy, fast-paced life, to the point where there is rarely time to have deep, life-changing conversations. This is why taking the time out to have those conversations needs to be planned. Once you take that time out, make sure to enter the discussion with an open mind. Don’t forget that these conversations don’t have to occur in person, and they do not have to be long. Talking on the phone, via text, or even on social media can be an effective way to have a healthy discussion. If you feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to, no problem! The Kimberly Center specializes in helping people discuss their issues with anxiety, depression, or addiction. Contact us today at (855) 452-3683 for information on how we can help you.