According to the latest statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health Disorders, 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. face a diagnosable mental health condition. Sadly, many refrain from seeking help. When it comes to having a discussion about mental health with a loved one, it can be difficult to find a place to start. For the listener, it’s often difficult to find the right words to say or determine the best way to offer support. For the individual seeking help, it can be hard to describe just how they are feeling or even find the best course of action to do so. That is why we have compiled some advice to help you begin a conversation about mental health with your loved one.
It’s a meaningful step for a loved one to open up about their mental health, so having an open ear to actively listen is key to understanding how you can best offer support. Being engaged in the conversation can be made easier by limiting distractions. Leave electronic devices turned off and put away when possible, and avoid bustling spaces like eateries or parks. Find somewhere private and comfortable. This will put you both at ease and also allow you to focus on what your loved one is expressing.
It’s also important to listen without judgment or comparison. It’s okay to share experiences that offer insight into coping mechanisms or that build trust and relatability, but try to refrain from making it a competition of who has it worse. This may make the individual seeking help feel as if their experience is not valid. Try your best as the listener to set opinions or biases aside to allow your loved one to express themselves without fear of disappointing you or feeling judged or embarrassed. Instead, listen with an open mind to learn and offer insight based on their specific mental health experience.
Do Your Research
When a loved one comes forward to discuss their mental health, it may be a challenge to really understand just what they are going through on a day-to-day basis. This is where ample research can help you as the listener. Find relevant online resources, like this example from WebMD, that give a digestible overview of specific mental health disorders that your loved one may be struggling with. Bring this research to the conversation and make note of their unique mental health experience and how it applies to what you have learned. This can allow you to be a better resource for next steps and set plans of action to help them cope with their mental health.
Be a Resource
Once you’ve determined the next steps based on the discussions you have had with your loved one about their mental health, set those steps in motion. Review everyday habits they can instill in their routine to feel a better sense of control over their mental health. Be present enough as well to know when to seek help that you, as the listener, can not provide yourself. This may include suggesting the need for professional help. Online psychiatry resources make it easier than ever to commit to routine help from professionals, all while staying in the comfort of your own space. As the listener, this can be a difficult topic to broach, but don’t be afraid to push your loved one to seek professional help if needed and reassure them that you will be with them every step of the way.