We are continually being told to open up the conversation about mental health with our friends and family. In fact, you may have noticed that this past year, conversations about common mental health issues such as anxiety have dominated the headlines more than ever before. But when it comes to actually speaking to someone you're worried about or opening up yourself – it can be terrifying. Mostly, the months of loss and lockdown have had a massive impact on us and our mental health. In fact, according to research conducted by mental health charity, Mind, of 16,000, 60% of adults and 68% of young people in the UK said their mental health has got worse since the pandemic began. So now, more than ever, it is essential to open up.
"People still think there is no right time or place to talk about mental health – that it's something that should be whispered about in quiet corners. Conversations have the power to change lives wherever they take place." - Sue Baker OBE, Time to Change campaign director
And we completely agree. But when it comes to opening up and speaking about mental health, why can it feel so terrifying? So many questions may be running through your mind - what if someone gets offended? What if it ruins your friendship?
Here at Scentered, we are huge advocates for starting conversations and opening up about mental health with your friends and family. Way too often, mental health stigma leaves people feeling isolated and ashamed. With many top celebrities choosing to speak openly about their mental health experiences, the taboos around conversations about mental health and wellbeing are improving.
5 Ways to Open Up the Conversation about Mental Health with Your Friends and Family
It can be challenging to know where to begin, and so we have listed five ways to open up the conversation about mental health with your friends and family. We all deserve to feel safe and understood when talking about our feelings and mental health in particular.
Take Opportunities to Talk
You may think it's best to wait until the pandemic is over, but don't wait for the perfect moment to open up. Finding opportunities to talk doesn't have to be face-to-face, a simple phone call or text is a great place to start during this lockdown. If you're able to, perhaps invite them for a walk or to grab a coffee. If someone is feeling hesitant, creating a little space is the perfect thing to do. Let them know you can have the conversation at a time that’s right for them.
Think About The Time and Place
Be sure to set aside enough time in the environment for you to open up, as well as potentially allow your family to remember to respond and ask questions. If you have limited time in whatever location you choose, this will add pressure and stress to the conversation. You may not always be able to speak with someone the moment you notice they could be struggling with their mental health. So it's fine to reevaluate some other time soon.
Think About What You Are Going to Say
It may be beneficial to practice what you're going to say - either in your head - or on paper. Here are some phrases that may be helpful to you to start:
- "I've not been feeling like myself lately"
- "I'm finding it hard to cope at the moment" can provide a starting point.
If you're worried about someone else:
- "The other day I noticed you seemed upset. I'm really concerned about how you're doing. So let's talk."
- You could simply start with 'how are you, really?'
Don't Expect Too Much From One Conversation
Understanding mental health problems can take time, and some people may be shocked or react badly at first. So don't expect it to go so smooth-sailing. Remember, it's important to give them some time to process what you've told them or give them space if needed. if possible, plan to come back to the conversation with them again.
Be Honest and Open
It can sometimes feel incredibly uncomfortable sharing something so personal, but explaining how your feelings affect your life may help others understand.
It’s scary to take a risk and to begin the conversation about mental health; there’s no doubt about that. But by doing so, you could open yourself up to receiving a lot more support from the people around you. If you take your time and speak from your experience honestly and openly, it will help others understand.
Places to Seek Help
If you're experiencing mental health problems and are struggling to open up with your friend and family, there are lots of places you can go to for help.
If you're in the UK, visit Time to Change for a list of resource here.
If you're in the USA, visit National Alliance on Mental Illness here.