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4 Ways to Start a Conversation About Mental Health

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Intro

Despite a more universal experience with mental health problems these days, it can still be difficult to approach the conversation. Whether you’re trying to help a friend, family member, or stranger navigate their mental health problems, these are some tips to keep in mind. 

1. Make Yourself Relatable 

Oftentimes, the discussion of mental health is one that is met with embarrassment or shame. Despite there being no reason to feel those ways, society has created a culture that can look down on people who are suffering from mental health problems. 

While this continues to get better as time goes on and a greater understanding is spreading, the problem still remains. Oftentimes, individuals require additional encouragement to feel comfortable discussing their mental health. 

A way to help with this is to bring yourself into the conversation, relating to those feelings or struggles in any way you can. That can be as simple as saying that someone you love suffered from similar problems, or it can mean getting vulnerable about your own struggles in life. 

Regardless of how you approach it, offering an antidote to help someone open up to you is a great option for beginning a conversation on mental health. 

2. Exercise a Positive Demeanor 

It’s amazing how our body language can impact someone just as much as the words we say. In fact, if you’re approaching a new, delicate conversation, like mental health, then your demeanor plays a particularly big role in how receptive someone may be to you. 

As such, it’s important that you’re not combative in your approach or angry in any way. This will likely only cause the person on the receiving end to shut down and feel as though opening up to you further will bring bad outcomes rather than positive ones. 

Even if you do have negative feelings related to the person and their mental health – for example: speaking with a family member who is an addict who has stolen money from you – the conversation will not be productive if led with a negative charge. 

If you’re unable to approach a conversation on mental health in that way, it may be more productive to wait until you can in order to help all parties involved. For more information on manners during mental illness talks, visit NAMI’s page here

3. You’re On Their Side

Reminding someone that you’re only trying to help and are on their side can soothe many negative thoughts someone can be carrying. With so many mental disorders, it’s easy for someone to struggle with the thought of someone being against them, even if they’re not. 

Regardless of who you’re speaking with, take the time to reiterate how much you care for them, their well-being, and any other relevant feelings. Above all else, make sure you’re genuine in how you let them know as well. There is nothing worse than someone saying what you want to hear for the sake of you. 

This also leans into the idea of educating yourself on the issues at hand. Not only can you help squash some of your misconceptions, but you can know how to help them better. That can mean something widely different depending on the person. For example, knowing the difference between marijuana strains if you’re concerned with their drug use, or the warning signs for depression. 

4. Sooner Rather Than Later

It’s important not to delay conversations on mental health any longer than needed. While it’s normal to wait until you’re ready to speak about something as sensitive as mental health, waiting too long can prove detrimental. 

Rather than waiting for the perfect moment in an ideal, controlled situation like you dream of, keep in mind how delaying until that time can cause more harm than good. 

Instead, do your research and understand what you need to do before approaching the person. There is no perfect time, but there is a way for you to be best prepared in order to ensure the person on the receiving end is helped to the best of your ability, but don’t wait until everything lines up. 

In the case of many mental health disorders, a person can be very close to falling over the edge. This makes delaying your conversations dangerous. Many will respond better to a raw and reel conversation than a perfectly manicured meeting in the end. 

Conclusion

Mental health can be a delicate topic, but that doesn’t mean that you need to be perfect in order to have the conversation. Regardless of what someone is suffering from, always make sure to approach them kindly, full of care, and educated on the matter at hand. Starting that conversation may not be easy, but having it can be monumental with positive benefits. 

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