Talking about mental health, with your loved ones, with your coworkers, can be a difficult conversation, but it’s one of the most important ones you’ll have all week. And it doesn’t have to feel like pulling teeth. We rounded up some great advice and resources to get you started, no matter who it’s with.
I’ll start with my favorite, because it’s a great icebreaker. Having personal conversations can be, well, awkward. Seize the Awkward recognizes that and inserts some humor that will help you take yourself less seriously while you’re trying to figure out how to start the conversation.
The take-away message? You don’t have to be an expert to talk to someone about their mental health.
The site lists signs to look out for, features testimonials from people whose mental health benefited from conversations with others, offers conversation starters and tips, and tells you what to do next. So get out there and seize the awkward!
Heads Together is a mental health initiative from across the pond. You may have heard of it; it’s got the royal seal of approval, with Prince William, Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry spearheading the campaign to change the conversation about mental health,
Through the website, you can access a series of Conversation Films produced by Heads Together. The short videos show that talking about our mental health can really help, and give more people the confidence to have these conversations for the first time. If you were unsure before, you’ll be convinced after!
“Being open to mental health can break down any stigma surrounding it. You don’t have to be an expert to talk and to listen, and often it’s the little things that make a big difference.”
Check out Talk to Change for more videos on how conversations around mental health made a difference and click here for situation-based tips.
Actor Glenn Close co-founded Bring Change to Mind to encourage a dialogue around mental health. The nonprofit developed a really neat tool to make bringing up mental health easier. Just pick the mental illness you want to talk about and who you want to talk to about it, and the site will generate a video and a written prompt.
Says the site: “No matter what you’re facing, or who you’re reaching out to, you can make a real connection. Not every conversation will be perfect, but each one fights the stigma around mental illness. And, that’s a conversation worth having.”
Additionally, the main website has a great selection of resources, stories and videos to learn more about the experience of living with mental illness.
Foundry is a youth mental health initiative in B.C. Their site is full of great resources for learning about mental health, especially (but not exclusively) for youth.
Foundry has tips for both someone struggling with mental health issues who wants to talk to someone, and for someone wanting to support a loved one.
Some easy first steps for someone wanting to ask their friend how they’re doing:
- Speak up! Start by sharing with your friend what you have noticed and why it concerns you. Have this conversation in a comfortable, familiar but private place where the two of you can talk without any interruptions.
- Let them know that you care about them and you are worried about them.
- Give specific reasons for your concern rather than asking, “How’s it going?” or “Is there anything wrong?” General questions are often easy to brush off. Think about the changes you’ve noticed in them. “I’ve noticed you seem _____ (e.g., really down lately) and I’m worried for you.”
There’s something for everything, so get talking!
Telling someone about your mental illness is a personal choice, but we believe it will have a positive impact for you. NAMI talks you through it.
“Talking is the way out for all of us. It’s a positive event: to speak.”
If you feel it’s “time to talk,” head to Mental Health America to get you started (including templates to write letters to your loved ones if a face to face is too intimidating).
Sometimes, circumstances require giving your child extra information so they can understand a situation, like if you have to go for treatment.
If you’re a parent with a mental illness, this article details age-appropriate ways to explain to your child how you’re feeling.
Speaking up for yourself is the first step to getting better, but it can be scary to open up to your parents for the first time.
Check out this article for a list of tips! We think tip # 6 is extra important.
If you’re seriously concerned about someone, or even if you just want to be prepared, CASP is an important resource for starting a dialogue.
Check out: I’m Concerned About Someone for some conversation starters and advice.
Remember, talking about suicide will not cause suicide, so don’t be afraid to reach out and offer help.
In a recent Globe and Mail story about discussing mental health, they made a point worth repeating:
Conversations, policies and practices that address mental health need to look beyond illnesses and disorders to promote mental health in all areas and aspects that support healthy living. That is, treating mental-health challenges is one thing, but creating healthy environments in all aspects of life offer preventive methods for good health – for everyone.
There are a variety of factors to creating a healthy environment, but there’s one way that we can all contribute: being open and honest about mental health and mental illness. We hope you now feel a little more prepared.
If you’re in crisis, the best person you can talk to is a professional. Find numbers to call here.