Let’s be honest, we all have mental health issues. Whether it’s work stress, a pang of anxiety, a little depression over something that’s happening in our lives right now… it affects us all at some point, even if for short spells.
Time to Talk Day is the nation’s biggest mental health conversation and I think this year, talking is even more important, after two years of pandemic related uncertainty. It’s a day all about making people feel comfortable talking about mental health, which reduces stigma helping to create supportive communities where we can talk openly about our issues and feel empowered to seek help when we need it.
There are always opportunities in our daily lives to talk, whether at work, school, the gym, or home, to simply check in with one another’s well-being and mental health. Having conversations with family, friends, or colleagues about mental health will help support ourselves and others and has the power to change lives.
If you are concerned about someone’s mental health, or maybe something has happened which may affect that person’s wellbeing, like a bereavement or separation, make a move. It can be tempting to ignore some of the signs that this person is struggling, or you might find that you don’t have the words, but at least asking that person how they are doing or voicing your concerns can be the first step to showing them that you care and acknowledge their difficult time.
If you’re unsure of how to start that first conversation about mental health, here are a few tips:
When we are actively listening, we do more than just hear. Allow your person to lead the conversation and try not to interrupt, simply wait until they are done expressing and then offer your words of support. Be encouraging when they are sharing their feelings, listen hard. They will feel respected and cared for if you play it this way. Be gentle, listen and reassure them, but if they don't want to talk then don't try to force it, and don’t judge.
If this pandemic has taught is anything it’s that you don’t have to be in the same room to talk. Yes, it’s better if you can be but reaching out by any means of communication is better than none. Text, social media messenger will work but Zoom or FaceTime if you can or at least talk on the phone to get that connection. Plus, often talking about your own worries first will help someone open up about theirs, when they realise they are not alone in feeling as they do. Maybe send them a funny gif or meme, or an old photo of you both. Just get the conversation started.
- Respect their space:
Talking about mental health is easier for some than others, and timing is key. If you see someone struggling, it can be difficult to broach the situation sometimes, especially if they don’t want to open up and we need to respect that. Maybe it’s the wrong time for them, maybe they are going through some internal conversations they need to address first, so don’t push, you don’t want it to have the opposite effect. Acknowledge their space, tell them you are ready to talk when they are. Just let them know you’re there for them.
Open your heart and your voice today and always. Just talk. A problem shared really is a problem halved.