May was Mental Health Awareness Month. Although we’re now beginning June, world events mean it’s still important to highlight the silent struggle so many of us battle. Let’s talk about starting a conversation.
No matter how happy or confident someone might appear, you never really know what’s going on inside. More often than not, because of shame, embarrassment or guilt people usually hide what they’re battling internally. Because of that, it’s so important to check on the people in your life, especially the ones you least expect it from.
Here are some tips and tricks for ways to check on friends and family without being intrusive:
- Look for signs they might be struggling. Everyone mental health experiences and signs of distress are different. Some common signs include acting out of character, isolation, loss of interest in activates they normally enjoy, anxiety or increased irritability, drug or alcohol use and expressing feelings of hopelessness.
- Start a conversation. You do not need to be an expert; you just need be a friend. It can be difficult to know what to say to someone, especially if you are unfamiliar or not sure what they’re struggling with and that’s okay. Keep it casual! It’s just a chat, not a therapy session. Listen while asking open-ended questions and avoid trying to fix their problems. Reassure them it’s okay to feel how they feel, letting them open up at their own speed. Most importantly, assure them this doesn’t change how you view/think of them and that you are readily available for them to talk.
- Keep checking in. Now that you’ve started a conversation, one of the best ways to provide continuous support is to remain accessible. Sometimes the first attempt doesn’t go as planned or your friend isn’t ready, and that’s okay! Stay available and keep the invitations going to remind them you’re there for them. If they do confide in you, make sure you don’t break that bond of trust but if necessary, take steps to help provide outside help.
- Get immediate help if needed. If there is an emergency or your loved one is in a crisis, do not hesitate to call 911 right away or take them to the emergency room right away. If you feel safe, stay with them until help arrives.
No matter what role you play in a mental health situation, you are not alone and help is available 24/7. Reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting SEIZE to 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It’s free, and everything you tell them is confidential, unless contacting emergency services is needed to keep you or a loved one safe.