It’s undetectable. It’s needed. It’s sensitive. What is this?
You can definitely fit multiple answers here, but we bet you haven't thought of mental health as one of them! On how abundant yet unnoticeable it can be. How most people need to know more about it. And on how sensitive and daunting it sometimes can be even talking about it with others. So, how about we break that barrier and talk about how we can start a conversation about mental health since it’s being encouraged to do so, the right way.
1. Caring Is Repairing.
Let’s start this off by shedding light on how important it is to show that you care when listening to a person sharing experiences with you. Even if you can’t offer help, the mere idea of wanting to hear, digest, and understand can really help in making someone feel supported. The value of listening intently to someone who needs help ensures a fundamental human need is being met: the need to be cared for, and heard.
2. Don't Fix, Listen. (Resist The Urge!)
Try to remember that not everyone is looking for your input on how to fix or solve their problems. It’s often more empathetic to approach conversations with the simple aim of being there, in the moment, listening rather than trying to come up with ideas to fix what may not even be broken. It’s important to realize that sometimes all people need is to be heard and listened to, for them, it creates a safe space for realization and expression.
- Focus Intently
- listen without interruption
- Attend to the verbal and nonverbal communication (body language, tone of voice)
- Always try to offer a non-judgmental, accepting environment. You’re not a fixer, it’s not your job- resist the urge!
3. There's No Such Thing As The "Perfect Moment"
Don’t get confused. Talking about mental health does not only mean therapy. Sometimes it means finding that common, natural space that just feels right to let it all out. This can look something like talking about our feelings in the midst of enjoying an activity. On that note, I bet we’ve had an experience cruising around with a friend at night when suddenly a spurge of emotions in that comfortable space took place.
So, don’t wait for the perfect moment to start talking about mental health, it’s undetectable. It'll never feel like the right time to start creating ways to ask a person how their mental health is. But for what it’s worth, fighting through that awkward phase of trying to do so will eventually have an impact on the other party, not to mention that rewarding feeling you will receive.
4. Ask, Again. (No Pressure)
Since mental health is a sensitive topic, sometimes people hesitate when they begin to express any sort of emotion. That’s why it’s important to ask again, ask twice, but don’t be too pushy with your questions. Show interest in what is being said by asking and encouraging people to talk some more and let it out. The interest that we show eventually resonates and creates the flow of conversation. Even if someone doesn’t feel like talking at that moment, the fact that you were there, listening will open future doors for people to feel like they can come to you if they’re struggling with their mental health (or any other person they’re comfortable with).
5. Avenues Of Expression.
Whether we decide to start a conversation about mental health through texting, calling, or meeting up, the means of communication comes down to the person in question. If they’re more comfortable disclosing personal emotion/ information in a certain way, place, or time then we should be respectful of that. Remember that the main goal is to try and talk about mental health, wherever it may be. That also may mean recognizing that you will not always make people feel the most comfortable, and providing them with other avenues to express themselves (like seeking therapy with a professional) may be the most empathetic thing to do.
6. You're Important too! Don't Forget.
Lastly, it might be very overwhelming having a conversation with others about mental health, so don’t forget that you need to take care of yourself too. You don’t always have to be the listener. You too can share and disclose your feelings. You too need support, care, and safe spaces to ease the way of speaking about your mental health.