Supporting Mental Health
If you know someone who struggles with their mental health, you have likely felt frustrated by it once or twice. Out of care, you want to know the right thing to do and say to help that person feel more supported and connected.
After 8 years spent working and volunteering in mental health and having endured periods in my life where I struggled myself, I’m sharing with you some tools and strategies below. These tend to work really well when supporting someone you love who may be struggling.
When the person in crisis is opening up, please just listen to them. Do not try to convince them that they shouldn’t feel the way they feel. Do not judge, interrupt, or offer solutions. If they need solutions, they will ask – trust me. But if they don’t, honestly just listen.
Avoid the Oversimplified Platitudes
Don’t ever tell a person in crisis anything that resembles an inspirational quote you found on Instagram. That quote may be helpful to you, but this move completely diminishes everything that person is feeling. This may sound counterintuitive, but when you tell someone in crisis “don’t allow others to be in charge of your happiness” or anything else that completely oversimplifies the overwhelming and uncontrollable feelings that person is experiencing, you make that person feel guilty or ashamed.
Empathy, not Sympathy
Empathy is the most important tool you can use in this moment. Empathy is when you try to get into the other person’s head and heart so you can understand what they feel from their perspective. Sympathy is when you relate what they’re feeling to your own experiences. Do not compare, this is not the time. Instead, ask the person questions that helps clarify for you how they feel and why. Exploring feelings can be instrumental in helping the person alleviate much of what they are feeling and bring them back into the present as well. It also communicates respect and non-judgment to the person in crisis.
They Don’t Want to Talk About It? Ask Them This Question.
Sometimes things are too painful or too graphic to talk about in detail, so someone says they don’t want to talk about it, please respect that. Instead, the best thing you could ask in this moment is, “How can I best support you right now?”. Give them the opportunity to tell you what they need, because they often already know. If they don’t, they will tell you that, but don’t just assume you know what’s best for them. This will convey respect and validation for their process and for who they are as human beings.
Your Presence Alone Can Be Helpful
Sometimes when a person is struggling, they don’t want to talk at all. That does not mean you are useless. Believe it or not, sometimes just your presence without any verbal communication can be enough to bring that person comfort. Talking is not always necessary, so don’t feel pressure to talk or get them talking. Let silence be your 3rd friend in the room.
If you would like more information on this, you can check out my video on this topic on my YouTube Channel and Facebook page, and IGTV.
If you would like to improve your communication and listening skills to better support your loved ones, or improve your personal and professional relationships, make sure to register for any of my free trainings or paid coaching programs, listed on my Facebook events page.
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Instagram: @dominicmitges & @domm85