While we may have come a long way in addressing mental health seriously, there is still a stigma associated with this issue. It exists in several forms, including embarrassment, shame, or denial, and can prevent people from either acknowledging their own mental health concerns or talking about them openly with others. It can be difficult to witness a friend going through this and you might be wondering about the right way to pick up a conversation. Here is a list of tips that would help you initiate such discussions.
Tell them What You have noticed
Start the conversation by telling them that you have noticed that they do not seem to be their usual self. Try to describe the changes you have noticed in their moods and behaviors. Pinpoint specific incidents as it would help them connect the dots. A few phrases that could come in handy are:
- You do not seem like yourself lately, what is going on?
- Is everything alright with you these days?
- Do you want to talk about something?
- How are things with you lately?
- I have noticed you have turned very quiet, is everything fine?
Validate their Feelings
Instead of initiating a random conversation, make sure that they are comfortable discussing their mental health issues with you. Try to be inclusive in your approach and involve yourself in the conversation. In order to validate their feelings, you could share your personal experiences or just let them know that it is alright to feel things the way they do. Remember, the most important step while talking to someone is creating a safe space.
Have a Clear Objective
You do not want to over-pressurize your friend by talking about everything on the first day. Create smaller goals and take small steps towards each goal. Before starting the conversation, make a mental checklist of topics you would address and the questions you would ask. This would allow both of you to progress at a natural rate and nurture the security factor over time.
Ask How You Can Help
It might sound like a small thing, which you generally ask someone, but it can have a huge impact if conveyed earnestly. Someone struggling with mental health issues tends to spiral within their negative thoughts and your small gesture can seem like a ray of sunshine. It is also important to ensure that you actually mean to provide the necessary support. Ways to help may include sharing useful resources or connecting them to a professional.
Say the Right Thing
The last yet most essential point lies in ensuring that you use the right words. It is not at all easy to break the protective shell and reach out to someone. When a person does that, please understand that you play a crucial role in their journey towards well-being. Act responsibly and try to learn how to deal with the situation instead of regarding their condition as a random phase. Do not share insensitive remarks or discuss their issues with someone else. It is never too late to learn and a little research can help you extend the proper message.
Written by: Maisha Islam