How to Talk About Mental Health
By Terri Dougherty
The COVID-19 pandemic and other stressors of the past few years not only opened the door for a conversation about mental health, they practically tore it off the hinges.
Feelings of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty are not uncommon, which means there has never been a better time to talk about mental health.
What’s this conversation like? That depends on the issues at hand, and whether you’re discussing problems you have been experiencing or concerns about another’s mental health.
Providing support to others
To open the door to a discussion about mental health, try these conversation starters based on questions from MentalHealth.gov:
How to listen
- “I’m worried about you. Are you talking to someone about this? Can I help you find someone to talk to?”
- “I care. What do you want me to know about how you’re feeling?”
- “I’m concerned. How can I help you get help? “
- “It seems like you’re going through a tough time. How can I help you find more information about how to deal with this?”
If someone asks to talk to you about a mental health concern:
It can be helpful to compare mental health issues to a physical illness. In some people, a cold turns into pneumonia and additional care is needed. When feelings of sadness or anxiety don’t let up, professional help is needed to support recovery.
- Listen without interrupting. Don’t be judgmental or minimize the issue.
- Let them know if you’ve gone through something similar, while keeping the focus on them.
- Be ready to connect the person with help.
Talking about your mental health with family and friends
To get the conversation started, you might:
Simply talking about mental health issues can bring relief, but don’t be discouraged if the person you’re talking to isn’t receptive. Find someone else to talk to. Mental health issues shouldn’t be ignored.
- Send a text message or write a note stating that you have some important things on your mind and would like to make time to talk about them.
- Find information online, a pamphlet, or booklet you can refer to when explaining how you feel.
- Practice talking about mental health issues in front of a mirror.
- Gather your thoughts and write down information you’d like to share. This can include how you have been feeling and examples of what you have been struggling with. You can share how it feels to tell others about this, and why you feel it’s important to tell them. Suggestions for support can also be provided. This might include listening, help with finding a therapist and getting to an appointment, creating a plan, or being there with a hug.
Help is available
If you are considering harming yourself or need immediate help with mental health issues, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).