How to Talk to Someone About Their Mental Health

14 Sep by HPA/LiveWell Clinical Psychology

Knowing how to talk to someone about their mental health is a vital skill to have; approximately one in four individuals experience problems with their mental health each year. Most of us know of a family member, friend, or colleague who has dealt with issues with their mental health.

We all experience anxiety, stress, or low-grade depression at times in our lives. When these feelings go on for a long time, become worse, unmanageable, or affect our day-to-day life, they may be considered a problem. If you know someone that is struggling with their mental health, there are things that you can do to help, and knowing how to talk to them about it is one of them.

HPA/LiveWell in Albany, NY can help to guide and advise on how to help someone manage their mental health.

How to Support Someone with a Mental Illness

There are a number of ways in which you can support someone who is struggling with a mental illness and knowing how to talk to someone about their mental health is one of them. We often worry about saying or doing the wrong thing, or possibly making the situation worse, but for someone that may be going through a difficult time, gestures from friends and family can affect them in a hugely positive way.

People with mental health problems are often afraid to let their friends and family know, and also may be reluctant to seek support. You do not need to be an expert to support someone with a mental illness; just recognizing that they are struggling can make a difference.

Depending on their specific difficulties, you can judge what might make them feel better based on the things that they would usually like, such as: going for a walk, watching a movie, picking up their kids from school, or cooking them a meal.

Knowing more about mental health allows us to effectively break down the barriers around communication, and therefore, support a loved one with a mental illness.

Tips for Talking to Someone with a Mental Illness

Knowing how to talk to someone about their mental health is often the first step to take when you realize that they are going through a difficult time. It is the best method of finding out what is bothering them and how you can help.

Tips for talking to someone about their mental health:

  • Set time aside – it is vital to have an open, non-judgmental space that is free of distractions.
  • Do not provide limits on what they can share – let them lead the discussion and share what they are willing to. Do not put pressure on them to say anything that they are reluctant to divulge.
  • Do not diagnose – try not to make assumptions about what the problem might be. You probably aren’t a medical professional or trained counselor.
  • Put a focus on well-being – talk to them about de-stressing and what they would usually do to relax. Emphasize exercise, diet, and taking breaks.
  • Keep questions open ended – say things such as “why don’t you tell me how you’re feeling” rather than “I can tell that you’re not feeling great”, and allow them time to answer without plying them with too many questions.
  • Be an active listener – repeat what they have told you back to them. It ensures that you have understood and lets them know that you are respecting their feelings, regardless of whether you agree with them.
  • Offer to help them seek help – offer to go to the general practitioner or therapist with them, provide information on who they can contact, or help them to talk to a family member. Try not to take control and push them too hard.
  • Respect your limits – if you believe that they are a danger to themselves or someone else, you may need to take action by contacting their general practitioner or a professional mental health helpline.

How to Help Someone Seek Mental Health Treatment

How to talk to someone about their mental health is the first step in helping someone through their difficulties, but they may need support when seeking treatment for their mental illness. Encouraging someone to seek therapy can be tricky; if not done sensitively it could potentially upset and aggravate them. However, there are steps that can be taken when encouraging them to seek help:

  • Show them your support – they may feel that you might judge them or perceive them differently if they were to seek help. Therefore, use non-stigmatizing language and assure them that they have your full support throughout the process.
  • Be sensitive to how you approach the issue – timing and place are important when broaching the topic of seeking help. Don’t talk about it when they are in a bad mood, or in a public place where the conversation could be overheard. Also, avoid group “intervention” style confrontations – they can cause a person to feel ganged-up on.
  • Highlight the importance of therapy – your loved one may initially be resistant to help, therefore, explaining how therapy will affect their lives in a positive way may encourage them to take that step.
  • Offer your support – you could offer to bring them to therapy, meet with them afterwards, or even attend a group-therapy setting if it is appropriate.

To find out more about how to talk to someone about their mental health, or to learn about the mental health services provided at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, NY contact us at 518-218-1188.