While our generation has done a lot to continue lifting the stigma from mental health, many of us still find it difficult to actually broach those topics, especially when it comes to someone close to us. When do we say something; when can saying something be harmful? It can be difficult to give an answer to cover every scenario, but here are some of the conversations you need to have with someone going through a rough patch.
Letting them know that you’re there to help
People who experience mental health issues spend a lot of time getting judged for their struggles and, as such, their natural stance when talking about it might be defensive. As such, it’s important to make sure the topic is framed as you being sensitive to their needs. It’s a good idea to get to know about the problems they’re dealing with, whether it be anorexia, addiction, or otherwise. Furthermore, be there to listen to them, understanding that their experience is likely to differ from anything you have read online.
Avoid shame or blame
Your personal philosophy about responsibility aside, getting into the blame game is one of the easiest ways to shut down any conversation around mental health. Forget about the topic of fault or even cause and effect and be empathetic with your loved one. If you feel like you find your thoughts getting into that space of assigning blame, then you can actually take steps to learn empathy, and guided meditation can help.
You can’t force anyone to take a step that they are not ready for. However, if you’re talking to a loved one about the reality of their mental or emotional health issues, you may as well have a spoon ready to dig yourself out of that can of worms. Without being pushy, talking about the options that you have found, be it counseling, inpatient drug rehab, or otherwise. You can do the research and talk about the pros and cons from your reading, without feeling like you’re pushing them in one direction or another. Don’t pressure them to make a decision, but knowing that the choices are there can make it easier for them to make it.
Don’t be a doctor
Most people reading this are not qualified to diagnose their loved ones and, even if you are a doctor, you shouldn’t try to act like one to your friends. As such, don’t take steps to diagnose them even if you’re pretty certain you know what kind of problems they have. Instead, recommend that they talk to a real health professional to get the kind of care that they need. Similarly, don’t talk over them or diminish their experiences, listen to them and understand that their lived experience takes precedence over what you might think you know about any condition.
Talking about mental health when it comes to how it affects our loved ones specifically is always going to be difficult, no matter how much of the stigma we work to lift. Hopefully, the tips above help to some degree.