How to Have a Conversation Around Mental Health
Whether you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, seeking mental health services isn’t always easy and it may be even more difficult to have a conversation about it with someone you love. We’re here to offer a few tips and resources for having conversations around mental health.
Starting a Conversation With Someone You Love About Their Mental Health
When you reach out and have a conversation about mental health with a friend or family member, it not only helps them, but it also breaks through the communication barriers often created by stigma. Talking about mental illness requires thoughtfulness, but it’s not as hard as people may think. There is no universal way to talk about mental illness, but there are best practices that can help supporters start the conversation.
Here are a few best practices from NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, for setting the right tone for communicating with a loved one:
Learn About Mental Health First
Supporters often don’t know what to say in the first talk. Knowing a little about mental health can help. This may include learning basics like emotions, symptoms, and treatment modalities from reliable sources, such as NAMI.
Listen and Give Encouragement
The key is to listen more and talk less. Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to share more. Emphasize their strengths and validate their emotions, which will make them feel more comfortable talking to you and opening up.
An initial discussion may be hard to start, here are few questions to open up the conversation:
- How are you doing mentally and physically?
- I wanted to see how you’ve been doing lately.
- I know you’ve had a lot on your plate lately. How are you feeling about everything?
- I’ve noticed you been quieter than usual lately. Are you doing okay?
- What are you excited about lately?
Starting a Conversation with Someone You Love About Your Mental Health
Whether you are having a bad day or dealing with more serious mental health conditions, reaching out to someone can be difficult. Most of us don’t hesitate to call a doctor when we have the flu or a broken bone, so why is our mental health any different? Taking care of your mind is just as important as taking care of your body, and opening up about your struggles is the most courageous thing you can do. When you are open, you allow someone else to listen and help support you, which is important because no one should bear mental health issues on their own.
Stumped about how to initiate a conversation with someone? Use this template below from MHA- Mental Health America and fill in the blanks, choose the options that work best for your situation
For the past (day/week/month/year/__________), I have been feeling (unlike myself/sad/angry/anxious/ moody/agitated/lonely/hopeless/fearful/overwhelmed/ distracted/confused/stressed/empty/restless/unable to function or get out of bed/__________).
I have struggled with (changes in appetite/changes in weight/loss of interest in things I used to enjoy/ hearing things that were not there/seeing things that were not there/ feeling unsure if things are real or not real/ my brain playing tricks on me/ lack of energy/increased energy/ inability to concentrate/alcohol or drug use or abuse/self-harm/skipping meals/overeating/overwhelming focus on weight or appearance/feeling worthless/ uncontrollable thoughts/guilt/paranoia/nightmares/ bullying/not sleeping enough/ sleeping too much/risky sexual behavior/overwhelming sadness/losing friends/unhealthy friendships/unexplained anger or rage/isolation/ feeling detached from my body/feeling out of control/ thoughts of self-harm/cutting/thoughts of suicide/plans of suicide/abuse/sexual assault/death of a loved one/__________).
Telling you this makes me feel (nervous/anxious/hopeful/embarrassed/ empowered/pro-active/mature/self-conscious/guilty/__________), but I’m telling you this because (I’m worried about myself/it is impacting my schoolwork/it is impacting my friendships/I am afraid/I don’t want to feel like this/I don’t know what to do/I don’t have anyone else to talk to about this/I trust you/__________).
I would like to (talk to a doctor or therapist/talk to a guidance counselor/talk to my teachers/talk about this later/create a plan to get better/talk about this more/find a support group/__________) and I need your help.
Snap Fitness supports NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They offer a variety of resources for you or someone you love to lean on. NAMI’s HelpLine offers support and provides practical next steps.
The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., ET.
Check out their website for more resources like support groups in your area: https://nami.org/help
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