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Tips for talking about mental health

I am a firm believer that negative mental health is a side effect of the war and violence we are seeing in our society. A great way to start to stop this violence (yes even internal mental violence), is to have more open dialogues surrounding the topic of mental health. BUT this can be very hard for people struggling with mental health disorders clinically diagnosed or self labeled. Below you will find some tips to help you talk to friends or families about their mental health and your own!

Eight tips for talking about mental health

1. Set time aside with no distractions

It is important to provide an open and non-judgemental space with no distractions.

2. Let your loved ones share as much or as little as they want to

Let them lead the discussion at their own pace. Don’t put pressure on them to tell you anything they aren’t ready to talk about. Talking takes a lot of trust and courage! You might be the first person they have been able to talk to about this.

3. Don't try to diagnose or second guess their feelings, leave it to the professionals

You probably aren’t a medical expert and, while you may be happy to talk and offer support, you aren’t a trained counsellor. Try not to make assumptions about what is wrong or jump in too quickly with your own diagnosis or solutions. Can you think of a. time a friend or. family member cut you off to tell you what "they thought was wrong". Maybe they even made you feel stupid for what you were experiencing. Not a fun emotion, right!?

4. Keep questions open ended. This is key.

Example: Say "Why don’t you tell me how you are feeling?" rather than "I can see you are feeling very low". Try to keep your language neutral. Give the person time to answer and try not to grill them with too many questions.

5. Talk about self-care. I will be writing. some new blogs about positive forms of self care.

Talk about ways of de-stressing or practicing self-care and ask if they find anything helpful. Exercising, having a healthy diet and getting a good nights sleep can help protect mental health and sustain wellbeing.

6. Listen carefully to what they tell you

Repeat what they have said back to them to ensure you have understood it. You don’t have to agree with what they are saying, but by showing you acknowledge how they feel, you are letting them know you respect their feelings.

7. Offer them help in seeking professional support and provide information on ways to do this

You might want to offer to go the GP with them, or help them talk to a friend or family member. Try not to take control and allow them to make decisions.

8. Know your limits

You will have your own limits to the support that you can provide. And it's important to take care of yourself too. Give yourself time to rest and process what they have told you or what’s happened. Try to help them create a support network of other friends, relatives and mental health professionals who can help them too.

Remember that If you believe they are in immediate danger or they have injuries that need medical attention, you need to take urgent action to make sure they are safe. More details on dealing in a crisis can be found below.

If someone tells you they are feeling suicidal or can’t go on, it is very important to encourage them to get help and contact the National American Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255

I hope these tips were helpful, and as always, thanks for reading friends!

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