As mental health awareness month draws to an end, lets take a moment to recognize the need to practice self-care and the care of others. Normalizing mental health can greatly alter the stigma behind the topic. Everyone, and I mean even the most put together individual has internal conflicts. For some it is a result of trauma, chemical imbalances, or difficulty coping with various stressors. Despite the reason mental health is not to be glossed over, ignored, or most importantly to cause shame. Opening the lines of communication does not take a special degree or training. All anyone needs is an open ear and to know some tips on helping someone feel comfortable enough to open up.
Display a willingness to talk about mental health by sharing an experience in a matter of fact and casual tone. Discuss details that you are comfortable with sharing followed up with how you coped with the situation.
Acknowledge, without judgement, that you have noticed a change in behavior. Remind them that they are not alone with what they are feeling, and most importantly that it is common.
Considering timing and the environment when approaching someone. Although the conversation should not be too prolonged, there is a time and place for everything. If you need to plan the moment, do so.
Prepare to be met with resistance. It is common for people to feel like a burden and show reluctance to share. Remind them that you are there for them and that they would never be a bother. Also suggest they speak to someone if not to you. Throw out there what you know about the benefits behind seeing a professional. Hopelessness is a strong emotion, so repeating the fact that there is a solution and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel is important.
Have regular conversations. Positive and productive mental health habits only become habits with practice. Talk about life not only during the bad times but also during the good times. All talks can serve as helpful reminders when the darkness sets in.
Open the doors of communication and people will follow. Developing healthy relationships thrive on a person’s ability to be themselves when they are at their worst as well as their best. For more on mental health awareness, education, and ways you can help your community, visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention https://afsp.org/.
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