This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May), which is why I think it is the perfect time to remind us all how important it is to talk about your mental health. This past year has been hard on all of us and this is why we need to open up these conversations with those around us, and just support each other.
Before I get into the post I just want to say that I am not an expert so please seek advice or support from professionals if you need too, or book an appointment with your GP. I am writing this to continue to raise awareness about Mental Health and just want to encourage others to start up conversations so we can support and help each other out.
If you do need to seek further support then here are some contacts for you to check out (there are a lot of charities and options out there these are just a couple, also note that these are UK services so will be different around the world):
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
It is difficult to sometimes talk about your mental health to friends and family. There are so many thoughts that run through your mind. For example, worrying about what others might think, feeling nervous about what you want to talk about, and just worrying about how opening up could potentially affect those relationships.
When it comes to mental health there are no right or wrong answers, it always comes down to what you feel is best for you. You might find it easier to try to talk about your mental health to friends and family, or you might prefer to do so with a stranger (I mean a professional). Just remember to take your time and when you are ready then do start those conversations.
Here are some of my tips that have helped me:
Choose the method of communication
When you think about when you want to talk about your mental health you want to consider the method of communication that you are most comfortable with.
It could be that you want to have that conversation face-to-face. However, if you are feeling nervous and worried it might be best to try beginning that conversation over the phone, through a text message or even writing a letter.
I know when I first was opening up (as I have always been reserved and struggled to talk about my own feelings) I found it best for me to write down everything in a letter. This way I could show people and let them come back to me.
Choose a suitable location
Something else for you to think about is the location. If you are going to talk about your mental health do you want to be in an open space such as a local café or park? Or would you prefer to be at home in your space where you might feel the most comfortable?
You also want to take into account whether there might be any disturbances especially as this could potentially stop you from talking. Therefore, choose a location that is comfortable for you but also where you will be able to talk about your mental health without the distractions.
You know how they always say to practice your slides or notes before giving a presentation? Well think of this as something similar.
I stood in front of my mirror and I kept starting the conversation how I wanted it to go. This definitely kept changing until I found the right wording, but just by doing this I felt more confident in just being able to say what I wanted to say. This just prepared me for after they read my letter so that I could talk to them face to face.
Plus it also gave me time to think about how I might explain this to someone that might not understand what I am going through. I thought of how can I explain this in a simple way whilst also getting my point across at the same time.
Now when it comes to the time you talk about your mental health to that other individual then ensure you are being completely honest. It will be difficult and it will be uncomfortable, but adding on to my point in the last paragraph you want to make that individual understand.
Therefore, if you are going in then you need to go all in. Be honest and be vulnerable and if you need to cry then cry. It is such a huge step to talk about your mental health so take your time, breathe and just be honest.
Don’t expect too much
Understand that this is the first time you will talk about your mental health. Therefore, you need to be mindful of others too.
Understanding mental health can sometimes be hard and everyone is different. Some people might go into a state of shock or not react how you want at first. However, it is so important to give them time after you talk about your mental health because they need to process the conversation too. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about your mental health or that you should be embarrassed or worried, it is just a part of human nature to process information that we get given.
Of course it is amazing if you talk about your mental health and choose someone to open up to, but just be mindful of them too. You can always suggest another meeting in the future to come back to the conversation and this gives them time to think about what has just happened.
The other side
If you are the person that is hearing your friend/family member open up then just remember to listen and be considerate. Of course you might not understand but you can offer support and ask questions to ensure that you can be someone that they go to to talk about their mental health.
Ensure that you keep the conversation going because this is a difficult and hard thing for someone to talk about. But also ask how you can support them, you might not understand but you can show that you want to support them in the best way.
Lastly, don’t try to “fix” the situation. Give that person your full attention and trust and just listen to what they have to say. Show that it doesn’t change the relationship and respect their feelings. Of course it can be hard listening to someone talk about this so look after yourself too and if you need to take some time then that is ok.
Lastly, I just want you to know how brave you are for wanting to talk about your mental health. It is a huge deal and if you do talk to someone then that is the first step. Once you do talk then think about what you want your next steps to be and how you want to manage your mental health.
If you need to seek further guidance then head over to the NHS website and there is loads of information on there (again this is specific to the UK, so ensure you find links or help that is relevant to your country).
Thanks for reading,
Gemma Jayne x