According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), simply talking to someone sympathetic in your life about your mental health challenges can help reduce your stress and improve your mood. While it might seem difficult or awkward, it doesn’t have to be. Just asking a friend or loved one, How are you feeling today? How is everything going? Do you want to go grab a coffee and talk? Offering a genuine listening ear to someone who needs someone to
talk to, someone who will LISTEN to them. Listen, not judge, not interrupt by offering solutions by, “you know what you need to do is…..” not turning the conversation onto their troubles, or changing the subject with the misguided thought that we should talk about happier things, don’t dwell on it and it will be ok. Really sit and Listen. Ok so how do you start this conversation?
Here are a few tips from the Mental Health First Aid Blog,
5 Tips for Starting a Conversation About Mental Health
“Are you okay?” Ask the question and mean it. Show you are listening by sitting alongside the person, maintaining an open body position, and maintaining comfortable eye contact.
“Are you thinking about suicide?” If you are concerned that someone is considering suicide, ask the question directly. Asking a person if they have been thinking about suicide or have made plans will not increase the risk that they will complete suicide.
“I’ve noticed that…” Open the conversation by explaining behavior changes you have noticed. For example, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been showing up to work late a lot lately.” Then, express
“Do you want to take a walk?” Engaging a friend, family member, or loved one you are concerned about in a healthy activity like taking a walk together can be a great way to start a conversation. Doing an activity while you talk can take some of the nerves and discomfort out of the conversation.
“How are you, really?” Sometimes when someone says they’re fine, they’re not. Know the warning signs to look for so you can know when to offer extra support. Building from the walk, substitute any activity that might be a good icebreaker. Depending on who it is and the relationship, this could mean going for a coffee, a hike, a picnic, or making cookies together. Just a stress-free activity to offer an opportunity to start an honest conversation. I will add that if this is a parent-child relationship the child has to know that whatever they say,
they will not be judged or punished for; therefore, set this expectation upfront. Give them your word that the conversation is about helping and healing not punishment and STICK to YOUR PROMISE. This element of trust is going to be very important going forward.