Approaching Someone about their Mental Health #TimetoTalk

We are often told we need to talk about mental health more and of course, I agree. However, it’s a difficult subject and without the right guidance, it can be a scary conversation to have.

Today is #TimetoTalk day so here at Arthur Ellis: Mental Health Support, we have put together a handy step by step guide to approach this conversation.

This is going to be helpful if;

  • you know someone that might be struggling…maybe you know you need to bring it up but you’re not sure how and have been putting it off?
  • someone has told you they have a diagnosis and you’re not sure what to do…

Don’t Google what you think the problem is – if there is a diagnosis that you know about or you have noticed symptoms, don’t Google them! Sorry Google…but if you do this, you may develop preconceptions and your own take on what that person is going through. That person is the expert and what they are going through will be unique to them, so go in with an open mind.

Have a think about what you want to cover. Sometimes, as a conversation develops, we can go off on tangents. Especially if it’s a difficult subject, it’s completely normal to want to divert the conversation somewhere else and you may even do it without noticing. Having thought about it before, you will have a clear direction and stay focused on discussing what concerns you have.

Understand what time you are prepared to dedicate and have clear boundaries.

It’s too easy to say, ‘call anytime’ or ‘I’m free whenever, for whatever you need’. Even though this is an incredibly kind gesture, it can have negative affects too.

Firstly, the person you are supporting may become too reliant on you. Ultimately, if there is an on-going, enduring mental illness, the individual suffering needs to build their own coping strategies so they can become stronger and more independent throughout their recovery, not for us to cope for them. Focus on empowering and helping them to make adjustments that can be of benefit to their situation.

Secondly, you need to look after yourself. If you begin taking on these issues, this will eventually begin having an impact on you. Try to encourage support but suggest catching up once a week or more often if you feel the situation warrants it within a time slot. Agree it and stick to it, if you miss it or the time slips by, this could have quite a negative impact on the person so only say it if you mean it and then diarise or make note of what you have agreed.

Consider what type of meeting is most suitable. A chat over coffee, a walk or something more formal can all be great but judge this based on what you have observed and what you feel that person would want. If they have asked for a chat about a specific diagnosis or they have raised the subject with you, ask them what they would be comfortable with.

Finally. Listen and ask open questions. How has this been affecting you? Tell me how all this started? Are great examples of some questions you could ask. We need to gather the information and insight from them about what impact the situation is having on them. Take notes if you need to and make sure you’re present with them, focus on what they are saying and don’t let anything distract you. If something is distracting, change seats, remove the ticking clock on the wall (which is a massive issue for me).

They will appreciate you wanting to really focus on them.

I really hope this helps you in some way. It would be great to hear your take on this so please do reach out and let us know what you think or any situations you’re currently going through which we may be able to help, everything will be treated in complete confidence.