Broaching the Subject of Mental Health
How does one broach the subject of mental health with family and peers?
Bringing up the subject of Mental Health can be difficult if you’re not prepared. However, it is an important topic and really should be addressed more often than it is. There are some things that you should consider ahead of time. Here are some suggestions when it comes to starting a conversation with your family and peers about mental health concerns.
Before you bring up the topic of mental health, you might contemplate your own mental state. How do you feel about your own mental health? Will you be able to listen to them and respond to their questions? It might be a good idea to read up on some common mental health problems, and be familiar with symptoms and some possible support services available. This will allow you to be prepared, should the conversation lead to these topics.
Once you feel you have some basic knowledge of the topic, you can think about when you would like to bring it up. Pick a time when you are in an appropriate setting and you both have time to have a decent length conversation. You don’t want to seem rushed, or that you have to cut the conversation short. Definitely rid yourself of distractions like phones, the TV, or other devices. Make sure you can show the other person you are attentive and listening, and taking what they say seriously. Try not to be judgmental, and realize having a mental health disorder is not a choice.
You may start the conversation in an open way like “hey, how have you been recently?”, and then ease into any concerns you might have such as “I’ve noticed you seem to be down lately…” or maybe “Is something bothering you, you don’t seem yourself?” Sometimes it might be easier to start with a broader subject of mental health like “Have you heard of Bell Let’s Talk Day? It’s great that we can talk about mental health in such an open way…”
In the early days of my diagnosis of having Bipolar, it was first thought that I had depression. My Mum brought it to my attention one day while we were sitting in the family room. It was clear to her that something wasn’t right, even though I had yet to recognize it myself. As I sat in front of the TV, but not really paying attention to what was on the TV, she handed me a pamphlet about depression. Within the pamphlet there was a list of symptoms of depression. I could check off almost all of the items on the list as things I was experiencing and feeling. It was in that moment that I could see there was a way of treating this disorder, and I could seek help. Not only that, but what I was feeling and the mood I was experiencing had a name: Depression. It was more common than I had previously thought. I was not alone.
I encourage people to have a heart to heart with those close to you. There is meaning in talking about your mental health. One conversation could spark hope in a person who has lost themselves. A ready ear who is actively listening, and someone who can really get someone to open up, can make all the difference in the world to someone who could use help.