Mental health isn’t something you should deal with alone, nor should anyone else. Whether you need to sit down with someone and talk about your own mental health, or someone has come to you for advice, there are plenty of ways you can support and feel supported by your friends, family and loved ones.
How To Start The Conversation
Naomi Elizabeth from I am Naomi Elizabeth offers her three simple ways to start a conversation with someone about mental health issues you may be experiencing. “The first step in maintaining good mental health is to be able to talk with others about how your feeling. To be able to share when your moods a little low or that anxious feeling is lasting a little longer than you'd like. Three simple ways to get the conversation started around mental health are:
1. Reach out and ask how your friends are feeling.
2. When someone asks how you are, don't just say 'I'm fine'. Be honest with your answer. Eve n though it might scare you, you'll properly find you’re not the only one who needs to talk.
3. Don't judge and make fun of people with a mental illness. By doing this, you’re just adding to the stigma. Instead, ask questions and be curious about mental health, after all, it's something each and every one of us must look after.” Find out more about I Am Naomi Elizabeth by following her on Facebook.
Go Somewhere You Feel Comfortable
If you’re hoping to talk to someone you trust, go somewhere that makes you feel comfortable, relaxed and safe. This could be anywhere, such as your favourite cafe, your car or even sitting on your king size mattress topper. You don’t want to confide in someone where you feel uneasy, or that someone may overhear you, so take it somewhere that makes you feel relaxed. Grab a hot chocolate, wear your favourite hoodie or grab a glass of wine, and relax.
Listen, Don’t Just Hear Their Issues
If someone has approached you for a conversation about their mental health, it’s important that you take time out to listen to what they’re saying. Sometimes it can be really hard to listen to someone else’s issues without either switching off (don’t deny it, it can be easy to zone out) or putting your own two cents in before they’re finished talking. When they’re talking, don’t make the issue about you.
Avoid Being Judgmental
When it comes to listening to someone else’s issues, it can be really easy to jump in with your own opinions on the matter. However, unless you’ve experienced something that’s exceedingly similar, it’s best to keep quiet, or at least, a little quiet. You may think you have all the answers, but sometimes people just need to let someone hear them out. Another thing to avoid is judging them for their thoughts, actions and choices. It’s definitely hard to do, but it’s important that they know that they have someone they can trust to talk to. Being judgmental doesn’t always mean judging them on their choices or opinions, it’s also not taking their issues seriously because you would handle the situation in a completely different way, or because they look fine. When you’re listening to someone explain their story, stay objective as possible.
Instead, Be Curious And Thoughtful
Rather than judge someone based on their decisions, you should ask questions. Not everyone handles issues the same way, so if you can try your best to see things from their perspective, the better you can understand their issues, and try to help them.
Don’t Give Up On Them, And They Won’t Give Up On You
Don’t give up on the person you’re talking to. Just like physical injuries, mental illness can take a while to heal, so if you make sure that you’re keeping up to date with them regularly, not only will you get to keep tabs on how they’re progressing, they’ll know that you’re someone they can turn to, which is incredibly important, for both you and them.
Daryl Elliott Green, from Twice Shot, shares his story of his road to recovery. “I was sitting in my patrol car on 1 May 2000 at 3.50am investigating a routine job, death threats, which were spoken 14 hours earlier. Out of the darkness, a man rushed up to the open door of the patrol vehicle, pointed at my face from less than a meter a .22 rifle. He shot me in the head and in the shoulder. The first bullet smashed my maxillae bone, destroyed five teeth, deflect downwards, entered my tongue and lodged in the back of my throat. The hospital’s emergency trauma surgeon who took three hours to remove the bullet in my head said, ‘If the bullet was two inches higher, you would be dead!’ After I was shot however, my adrenalin kicked in and I went into fight mode. I exited the patrol vehicle and searched for the gunman, not finding him, I searched for my Sergeant who was also shot but missing. I was unable to locate him. However two residents came into the street to see what was happening. I was able to distinguish they were not the offender and directed them back to their house. I returned to the patrol vehicle where my partner was. She was shot multiple times and immobilised by the bullets. I stood guard over her until backup arrived. For my actions on this night, I was awarded the Queensland Police Service’s highest accolade for brave - the Valour Award. The next decade was tumultuous. Two attempts to reconstruction my mouth, with the final procedure being carried out in 2007. I was treated for PTSD and was looking to start a new career, so whilst working full time as a police officer, I studied part time a master’s degree in finance, graduating in 2008, only for the Global Financial Crisis to scuttle this id ea. I overcame my fear of confrontation and firearms, by challenging myself and successfully qualified as a police firearms instructor. I fought a ten-year battle from Criminal Compensation, with my success helped by a full-page newspaper article titled ‘Red Tap Ambush – Officer shot a decade ago still waiting for compo’. Over this decade I was subsequently prompted three further times rising to the rank of Senior Sergeant.” Find out more about Twice Shot by following him on Facebook and Instagram.
Let Them Know You’re There For Them
A way to let your friend or loved one that you are there for them, is to keep interested. You don’t have to ask clinical questions, but you can just let them know that you’re there for them. Hang out with them, grab some pet supplies, take your dog for a walk and bring your friend. Spend time with them, talk to them and let them know you’re there for them. Even sending them a nice text message can keep the level of love and trust going through a relationship.
When it comes to talking about mental health, there’s a real stigma and barrier that needs to be broken. Don’t forget that mental illness does not make you a failure, nor does it make the person who is suffering a failure. Mental illness is not a sign of weakness, so don’t let anyone treat you as a weakling, and don’t treat anyone who is living with an illness to think it either.