Now that mental health and mental health related issues have become a hot topic for discussion, it feels like everyone has got something to say. Some even go as far as to utilize this latest “trend” and try and earn a profit off it (take a look at Burger King’s latest ad campaign). Despite this, the fact that mental health and mental health related issues have become topics of mainstream discussion is a much-awaited blessing. Thanks to cultural icons, healthcare professionals, and people with mental disorders, who were brave and aware enough to talk about it, mental health is slowly being normalized and the stigma around it is diminishing. More and more people with mental health issues are coming forward and are able to find safe spaces to talk about their experiences.
While we are witnessing progress, there is much left to be done. Especially in a country like India where the stigma is still strongly prevalent. There are spaces in everyday life that make it difficult for people with mental health disorders and there is often no one to talk to. We are talking about workplaces, family, friend circles, and public gatherings. It’s OK to talk about mental health in these spaces (even though stigma may not always make it possible). So, if you know someone battling mental health issues, then this article will help you have a conversation with them. It could be someone in your family, a colleague at work or a close friend. Knowing how to talk to them and give them a patient, non-judgmental ear, serves as a big help.
Things to keep in mind
Mental health disorders like any physical ailments are painful and debilitating. The only difference is, its effects are not always physically visible. Having this in mind, let us take a look at how to have a supportive conversation with someone suffering from mental health issues.
Don’t try to “solve” things-
When someone is talking about their mental health issues with you don’t just resort to solving their problem or offer advice, instead just patiently listen to them. More than your advice all they want is acceptance and patient listening. Additionally, you may not be a healthcare professional to give appropriate advice. Listen to them and ask questions about their experiences, thus allowing them to share and vent. This actually provides them relief.
Refrain from saying certain things-
Phrases like “just cheer up”, “you need to think more positively”, “come on, you just need to love yourself”, makes them feel worse and you should absolutely refrain from saying these things. Look at it this way, if they were capable of- just cheering up or cultivating self-love, they wouldn’t have this condition in the first place. Everyone has a different capacity of coping and we should respect that.
You don’t need to “understand”, just be patient & supportive-
You don’t have to “get it”. It might be difficult for you to understand their situation or their pain, however, there is no need to understand it. Just be patient and supportive when they share their experiences and the best thing that you can offer is your unconditional acceptance
Everyone has their own unique experience with mental health issues and brace through them individually. Being there with them and allowing them to talk, might make them feel that they are not alone in this battle. Talk about mental health issues and mental health in order to fight the stigma. However, be mindful enough to do so in a manner that is helpful and beneficial to the people going through them.