This week is mental health awareness week, and therefore I thought I’d share some support, advice and also experiences around mental health throughout this week. Mental health is now very much at the forefront of conversations and talked about significantly more than it was a couple of years ago – but it still needs to be spoken more in order for people to feel comfortable with talking about their experiences. Also, just because it seems to be at the center of lots of conversations I hear and am involved in doesn’t meant that everyone else is also hearing that same message.
Everyone’s relationship with their mental health and the stage they’re at with how they understand it is unique to everyone. After you’ve reconginsed and started to understand your mental health, if it’s effecting you negatively, one of the first and hardest stages that you need to be overcome is talking to someone about it, but it’s hard to know who to talk to incase they got ‘get it’. So, in this post I’m going to try and cover the do’s and don’ts of what you should and shouldn’t do or say when someone confides in you about their mental health.
I’m going to start with the things you shouldn’t do or say:
- It’s all in your head – yes, it quite literally is all in that persons head, but that doesn’t mean the things they are feeling aren’t valid. For that person their thoughts are potentially all encompassing and saying this could make them feel alone and potentially worse. Additionally, mental health is initially in your head but it can quickly start to impact your physical self
- But you have all these nice things, how can you feel sad – if there is one thing that is for sure, money and material things do not buy happiness. Just because someone looks like they may have everything they could possibly want/need, does not mean they’re immune from poor mental health
- Everyone has down days – this is true, but if someone is constantly told that everyone has down days and the negative way they are feeling is normalised they’ll try to live with it and be far less likely to seek help in the future
- Cheer up – I think this is self explanatory, it’s such a pass away comment and quite immediately shows that you do not understand what they’re going through
- I haven’t got time/this isn’t the right time/brush it off as if it’s nothing – if someone has come to you and confided in you about their mental health, the chances are it took a lot of courage to do so, so don’t just brush it off
I won’t lie, in the past I’ve almost definitely said some of the above to people when they’ve told me about their mental health or given some terrible advice like ‘just try and keep positive!’, but as the conversation has opened up around mental health, and after struggling from poor mental health myself, you definitely start to respond to these conversations differently. Sometimes it really is hard to know what to say, but hopefully some of the things below help you understand a little better how to navigate these harder and more sensitive conversations.
If someone comes to you and confides in you about their mental health, some better things to say and do would be:
- Thanks for confiding in me, when you’re ready to talk about it more I’m always hear to listen – you might not completely understand what your friend is going through, but the one thing you can do is listen. Sometimes quite literally saying feelings out loud rather than hearing them constantly echo round your head can really help
- Is there anything I can do to help? – even if they don’t take you up on this offer, it’s important to acknowledge it
- This sounds really difficult, I’m sorry you’re going through this – it’s important to acknowledge their feelings as it validates them rather than brushing them under a rug.
- Lets go for a walk and talk about it – schedule in some time to talk to the person with no distractions
Mental health is a weird thing because if you’ve never suffered with poor mental health I don’t think you’ll ever be able to understand it. That being said, there are lots of different types of mental health and nuances between how different people experience poor mental health, that is why the best thing you can do, rather than try to problem solve, is ask questions, offer advice and potentially even point someone in the right direction of professional help.
I hope you’re doing okay and this is your reminder to check in with your friends. I saw a documentary on mental health a couple of weeks ago and they suggested that when ever you ask someone how they are you should ask once ‘how are you?’ get a response, and then go again with a ‘but how are you actually?’. It’s very easy to say ‘oh yeah I’m good thanks’, but asking the second time offers up your extra time and confirms you’re happy and ready to listen.
Thanks for reading, Chloe x