Time To Talk Day – 10 Tips for Talking About Mental Health
Time to Talk Day invites us all to start talking openly about mental health. However, we know that talking about mental health can feel really hard. Many people with lived experience of mental health problems have shared that small conversations make a big difference, and can be the stepping stone in seeking the necessary support.
Check out our ten top tips for talking about mental health below – we hope they will help you feel more comfortable opening up and encourage you to put aside some Time To Talk:
- There is no right way to talk about mental health. However, having a plan in place ahead of talking can help make the process feel less overwhelming. You could try writing down what you’d like to say and plan who you are going to talk to.
- Think about the time and place. Try talking away from distractions like TV and work. Some people find it easier to talk side by side rather than face to face, so you could try having a conversation whilst walking or cooking. Many of us don’t like talking in person, so why not video call or check in via WhatsApp instead?
- Keep conversations small and informal. You don’t have to set aside hours for a chat about mental health – 10 minutes may be enough, especially for that first time opening up.
- Listen. Let the person finish their sentences without interrupting and show them you’re listening and engaged with open body language such as eye contact and nodding. Allowing silences is also really important. Even though we can be tempted to fill silence, it’s these times when the person will often express thoughts and feelings they otherwise may not.
- Communicate non-judgementally. It’s really important that we accept the person as they are, are empathic, and that we respect cultural differences. Across different cultures, certain communication cues – such as eye contact levels and personal space – can communicate different things. To ensure you are communicating effectively you could ask the speaker what is appropriate and comfortable for them.
- Ask open questions. Asking questions can reassure the person that you are listening and understand what they’re saying, as well as giving them the space to express how they’re feeling. Try to ask open questions such as “how long have you felt like this?” and “can you elaborate on that?”
- Ask twice. Often people say they’re fine when they’re not. Asking twice is an important way of letting the person know that you really do care about how they’re feeling. Sometimes, when we’re asked “how are you?” our go-to reply is “I’m fine thanks” because we think they are just being polite. But if that person follows up with, “But really, is everything OK?” we know that they really do want to know how we are.
- Be patient. Some people might not be ready to talk about what they’re going through just yet. We can’t force people to open up about how they’re feeling. Remember, the fact that you have tried to talk to them may make it easier for them to open up another time.
- Give support. You could find information online ahead of the chat that might help you explain what you’re going through. Or, if you’re the person listening, make yourself available to talk again if needed. It’s ok to let them know if there is a time of day or certain days of the week that you aren’t available. For instance, “I’m here for you if you need to talk, but my son goes to bed at 7pm, so call after then.”
- Look after yourself, too. Choosing to talk can make a real difference to someone’s life but it can also bring up difficult things that people may not have spoken about before.
Our Breathing Space services are also here for you. Offering a calm and safe environment for those experiencing or at risk of a mental health crisis, Breathing Space have both a telephone and face-to-face service available. Find out more here.
Posted on: 26th January 2022