Mental Health: How To Have A Conversation About It With Your Loved Ones

Mental health can be hard to talk about, especially with those you feel closest to. Even though it can be uncomfortable, it is important to talk to your loved ones about mental health.

Whilst you might feel uncomfortable talking to someone about your concerns for their mental health, simply letting them know that you care can make a difference to their mood. Plus, it can open the door to starting a conversation.

It is important to remember that everyone experiences mental health issues at some point in their life, and by simply talking, listening and being present, you can create a safe space to give someone the opportunity to seek help.

Starting the Mental Health Conversation

The space you pick to start the conversation is very important. Consider where your loved one feels most comfortable, and make sure you are in a space that has no distractions. Try and find a relaxing and quiet spot.

Some ideas for good places to have a conversation about mental health includes:

  • A park
  • The beach
  • A small café

You could also go for a drive or do an activity together, such as kicking a football. Doing an activity whilst talking about mental health can be useful as it allows you to talk without putting too much focus or pressure on your loved one.

You can start the conversation by letting them know you have noticed that they do not seem like their usual self. You can also describe the changes you have noticed.

Here are some phrases to help you kick off the conversation:

  • “You don’t seem like yourself lately, what’s going on?”
  • “I’ve noticed you have not been as sociable lately, is there anything you wanted to talk about?”
  • “I’ve noticed you have had a lot on your mind lately, would you like to talk about it?”

Being a Good Listener

Remember, active listening is key. Be aware of your body language and how you respond to your loved one. Use positive body language to display empathy and understanding. This can include:

  • Maintaining good eye contact.
  • Having your body facing towards them.
  • Nodding occasionally to show you are responding and listening to what they are saying.

You can also reinforce active listening with comments such as:

  • “What happened next?”
  • “I can see that you are upset”
  • “What can I do to help you feel better?”

You can also paraphrase what they have said to you to make sure you understood them.

Remember to let them know you are thankful that they have opened up to you.

Safety Concerns When Talking About Mental Health

Your loved one might not be ready to seek help, and this can feel very overwhelming. It is ok to talk about your concerns with your loved one more than once.

Being comfortable about opening up about mental health takes time, so be patient and persistent.

However, sometimes there can be safety concerns for your loved one, which can be overwhelming and scary. If you are concerned, speak to them directly. Some tips to start the conversation include:

  • Letting them know you are concerned about their safety
  • Being honest
  • Acknowledging the difficulties of opening up and seeking help
  • Offering to work together to find appropriate services

If you are concerned about suicide, ask them direct questions such as “have you ever thought about ending your life?” If they say yes, seek professional help.

This may include developing a safety plan to help you both recognise early warning signs and identify helpful strategies to help your loved one get through a mental health crisis

Mental Health Conversations: what to remember

  • It is not easy to open up about mental health. If your loved one is not ready to talk, respect their privacy.
  • Be patient and non-judgemental.
  • Take care of yourself. Self-care is important when caring for someone with a mental illness. Practicing self-care will not only help with your mental health, it will give you greater patience and consideration when supporting your loved one. Think of aeroplane oxygen masks; it is important to make sure you are ok first so you can be there to help your loved one.

Put on your own oxygen mask first. Take care of yourself, so that you can take care of others.

Dr Janelle Sinclair, @DrJanelleSinclair

Speak to a Psychologist at One Central Health

Would you or someone you love like to speak to a psychologist? Our mental health professionals are always here to help you. Contact our team today.

– Roisin Megahey

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