8 Tips for Talking to Someone Struggling with Mental Health

More than 43 million Americans struggle with mental illness.

That’s a lot of people.

For context, take a guess at the combined population of the following cities:

New York City | Los Angeles |Chicago | Houston | Phoenix | Philadelphia | San Antonio | San Diego | Dallas

Combined population = 25 million.

Odds are, we all know someone.

It’s understandable that you may not know what you can do to help, but simply talking about it is often the first step. If you are worried about someone, it’s important to not wait but initiate the conversation yourself.

Remember, dont take it personally if they don’t want to talk to you. It can be very difficult, even if the friend or family member is close. Sometimes all you can do is let them know that you care.

The following tips are meant to help guide your conversation.

1.) No Distractions

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It’s important to set aside time for just the two of you. If it’s in a public space, make sure that it’s quiet enough to easily hold a conversation. A private space may be preferred and can often make it more comfortable to open up. Keep your phone on silent and put it away, so that your full attention is focused on the conversation.

2.) No Pressure

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Let them share as much or little as they want to. It’s not your place to lead the discussion, or determine the pace. There may be things that they are simply not ready to talk about, so don’t pressure them. It takes a significant amount of trust and courage to open up, and it may even be the first time talking to anyone about it.

3.) You Are Not a Professional

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It is not your place to try and diagnose their feelings. You are not a professional. So don’t even try to make assumptions about what is wrong or solve their problems. Let me repeat this, you are not a trained professional.

4.) Ask Open Ended Questions

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Although it may seem difficult, try to keep your language neutral. Instead of asking yes/no questions or providing your own commentary, ask open ended questions like “Why don’t you tell me how you are feeling?” or “When do you notice that you struggle the most?”

5.) Talk About Wellbeing

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This includes exercise, healthy eating, and rest. Talk about some of the things in your own life that you have found useful. Sharing a favorite smoothie recipe, a good book, or an invitation to hike with friends are all positive ways to impact the conversation. Ask what seems to work for them.

6.) Listen Carefully

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One of the best ways to demonstrate your attention is to repeat back out loud what they share with you. It also helps you to understand and interpret what they say correctly. Even though you may not 100% agree with everything they tell you, it’s most important to show that you understand and respect their feelings, and that they have been heard.

7.) Offer Help

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You may offer to help them seek professional help. Tools like Therapeasy can help with this. You may offer them a ride to their first appointment. The goal here is to support, not take control.

8.) Know Your Limits

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If you feel that a problem is serious or that they (or others) are in immediate danger, there are actions that you can take to make sure that they are safe. Resources below:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1–800–273–8255

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1–800–799–7233

Crisis Text Line: text REASON to 741741 (free, confidential, and 24/7)

Self-Harm Hotline: 1–800–366–8288

Veterans Crisis Line

Original source: mentalhealth.org.uk

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