Time to Talk Day - Thursday 6th February 2020
Around 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem this year yet the shame and silence can be as bad as the mental health problem itself. Your attitude to mental health could change someone’s life.
Tips for talking about mental health
We know talking about mental health is not always easy. But starting a conversation doesn’t have to be awkward, and being there for someone can make a huge difference.
There is no right way to talk about mental health, but these tips will guide you to make sure you’re approaching it in a helpful way.
1. Ask questions and listen
Asking questions can give the person space to express how they’re feeling and what they’re going through, and it will help you to understand their experience better. Try to ask questions that are open and not leading or judgemental – such as “how does that affect you” or “what does it feel like?”
2. Think about the time & place
Sometimes it’s easier to talk side by side rather than face to face. So, if you do talk in person, you might want to chat while you are doing something else. You could start a conversation when you’re walking, cooking or stuck in traffic. However, don’t let the search for the perfect place put you off!
3. Don't try & fix it
It can be hard to see someone you care about having a difficult time but try to resist the urge to offer quick fixes to what they’re going through. Learning to manage or recover from a mental health problem can be a long journey, and they’ve likely already considered lots of different tools and strategies. Just talking can be really powerful, so unless they’ve asked for advice directly, it might be best just to listen.
4. Treat them the same
When someone has a mental health problem, they’re still the same person as they were before. And that means when a friend or loved one opens up about mental health, they don’t want to be treated any differently. If you want to support them, keep it simple. Do the things you'd normally do.
5. Be patient
No matter how hard you try, some people might not be ready to talk about what they’re going through. That’s ok – the fact that you’ve tried to talk to them about it may make it easier for them to open up another time.
And there are lots of things you can do to support them even if you’re not talking:
Doing things togetherSending a text to let them know you’re thinking of themOffering to help with day-to-day tasks.
We all want to be good friends who are there for the people we care about. We might be worried about a mate, or want to check in with a colleague, but starting conversations that seem ‘deep’ or potentially emotional can be daunting.
Here are 5 tips for starting conversations about mental health that you might find helpful this Time to Talk Day.
1. Don’t wait to find the perfect moment
When we imagine conversations about mental health we might envisage something like a therapy session: two people alone in a quiet room, sitting face to face, giving one another their full attention. But in reality, when was the last time you and a mate found yourselves in this scenario? It’s important that conversations happen at times and in places that feel natural.
Sometimes it’s easier to talk about our feelings when we are doing something else. Driving in the car; jogging around the park; eating breakfast in the cafe. The more typical the setting, the less unusual and uncomfortable the conversation can feel. Having something else to do at the same time also means that the pressure is off to fill silences, maintain eye contact, and wrap things up in a particular way.
2. Ask twice
We know that people often say they’re fine when they’re not. So asking twice is an important way of starting conversations about mental health and letting people know that you really are interested.Sometimes we feel uncomfortable opening up if someone asks, “how are you?” because we think they’re just being polite. But if that person says, “no, really, is everything OK?” we know that they’re not just going through the motions. Even if someone doesn’t feel like talking at that moment, they know you’ll be there to listen when they’re ready.
3. Talk about yourself
If you want someone to open up to you it can help them feel safe and understood if you share your own feelings. You don’t have to disclose a mental health problem to them – you might not have any personal experience of one. It could be as simple as sharing that you get down sometimes or sharing something that you’ve been worrying about recently. This will make it clear that you’re happy to talk about feelings and that there won’t be any judgement.
4. Approach the elephant in the room
If you know that someone has experienced mental illness – maybe they took some time off work recently, or spoke about it in the past – don’t be afraid to ask how they’re doing. There are respectful ways to do this and it might not be appropriate to bring up specific details, but asking, “how are things now?” or “are you back at work?” shows that person that they have nothing to feel awkward about.
If you think someone has been acting differently it’s OK to mention that too, if it is done in a kind way. “You’ve seemed a bit quiet recently, is everything alright? I’m here if you want to talk.” This shows that you care and opens the door for them to chat about things when they’re ready.
5. It doesn’t have to be face to face
Talking in person is great. It can help to see someone’s facial expressions, read their body language, and give them a hug if that feels right. But some people find it easier to talk about things via text or email, and that’s fine too. If your main form of communication is WhatsApp, check in with them on there. All the above tips still apply online. Social media is a brilliant way of keeping in touch with people, but just because we’ve liked a post or shared a funny video doesn’t mean we’ve really connected with that person.
All of the above information has been taken from the Time to Change website.
For more information or support click on the link www.time-to-change.org.uk