Tools for Talking to Someone About Their Mental Health
We all have a friend, family member, or someone in our life that at some point we become worried about. We may notice a consistent change in their mood or behaviors and wonder how to approach them.
If I don’t talk about it, they may feel like they’re alone or like I’m not here to help but if I press too hard, I might push them away. If you’ve ever wondered how to approach this topic of checking in with your friends in an organic way, peruse the list below and see what fits for you.
Here are my therapist tips for talking with a loved one about their mental health:
1. Picture not just what you want to get out in the open with them, but what you want their experience to be, too. If you’ve been concerned about someone you care about, it has likely been sitting with you for some time, Rather than being hyper-focused on a list of noticed behaviors, try focusing on what you want to help create with them. Do you want to be a go-to for their bad days? Do you want to take on more responsibilities while they find support? Do you want to help them find a therapist or support group when they’re interested? Viewing the conversation as a stepping stone together rather than an intervention for them can help you develop skills to be there consistently.
2. Find a location they’re comfortable in. Our environments influence our level of comfort but how often do we consider this when having a conversation? If you anticipate an uncomfortable conversation ahead, consider finding a space that is within their comfort zone. Helping them feel relaxed and closest to their element can make difficult conversations more approachable. Do they enjoy exploring new coffee shops? Do they have a favorite couch to lounge on?Is there a hiking spot they love to go to on the weekends? Create an environment that shows them they’re safe and the conversation is normal.
3. Go on a walk together. Studies show that going on a walk for a difficult conversation can be more disarming than sitting across from one another. When you’re sitting across from someone else, it can feel like you are in the hot seat or the spotlight is on you. When you are going on a walk, both people’s attention is on the land ahead. This helps both parties feel more open to share what’s on their mind with less focus on their perception.
4. Avoid giving immediate advice. We may start to feel like it is our duty to pull our loved one out of what they are feeling but odds are, the person has an idea of the source of their discomfort and is having trouble accepting it themselves. Rather than giving immediate advice on what they should do, elaborate on what you’re available to do. Ensure you provide a space where they can share their perspective. Show them that they are the expert in their situation and you are there to support them, not critique them on how they are handling it.
5. Be comfortable with moments of silence. It may feel awkward for you to have pockets of silence. It can sometimes feel like a deficiency in your ability to hold a conversation, but silence is essential in meaningful conversations. What feels like a long time for you can be just right for the other person. They may be reflecting on a recent thought, gaining the courage to share something on their mind, or appreciating the company during the difficult feeling. As tempting as it can be to fill the silence, allow it to happen. Try counting to 6 Mississippis before disrupting the silence.
The fact that you’re reading this piece shows that you are trying to be intentional about your relationship and approach to the conversation and this is the most important part of them all.
Want to learn daily tips for taking care of your mental health? Check out the recent MINDS score blog post here.
If you or your loved one is interested in therapy with socialworkup Therapy, inquire here.