How to Start a Conversation About Mental Health
Talking directly to a friend or family member about mental health can be the first step in understanding their struggles, supporting their recovery, and/or walking with them as they learn how to manage their mental illness.
Many people experiencing mental illness will not reach out for support.
Common reasons are:
“I don’t want to be a burden.”
“They have their own problems, they don’t need to worry about mine.”
“I should be able to handle this on my own. After all, there are people in the world way worse off than me.”
“They probably wouldn’t understand or they will likely judge me.”
When approaching these conversations with family and friends, it is important to actively listen without trying to fix, affirm their experience without judgment, and restate your desire to support them.
There are so many ways to communicate in today’s world. You know your friend or family member best. Try to decide if a call, text, or in person might be best. Here are 5 suggestions you can use for having a direct conversation with the people in your life.
“I care about you and I’ve noticed you haven’t been yourself lately. How are you?” If you think someone is having a hard time, trust your instincts. Speak to them privately and start with an expression of care.
“Can we grab some coffee and talk about it?” Sometimes it might be better to talk in person. Create some space for them to feel safe when the conversation is right for them. Other ideas are taking a walk or going to lunch.
“Nothing you’re going through changes how I feel about you.” Reassure your loved one so that they know you’re right there with them and that you care and that won’t change. Knowing that the two of you can get through this together can be very comforting to someone.
“I’ve struggled with anxiety and I saw a therapist and it really helped me.” One of the easiest ways to let someone know you are willing to talk is to be open about your own mental health. Allow it to come up naturally. Letting others know you’re a safe person to talk to because you’ve also experienced something can have a powerful affect.
“I love you.” Everyone wants to feel loved – especially someone dealing with guilt, shame or feelings of inadequacy – and this simple statement shows them that you care.