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Tips on how to talk to people with mental health difficulties

System Posts: 596

Scope community team

This discussion was created from comments split from: Hi I'm Rebecca ask me questions about Mental Health.


  • [Deleted User]
    [Deleted User] Posts: 126 Listener
    Hi Rebecca! 

    Very glad to have you on the community. 

    It's mental health awareness week and lots of people are talking about mental health which is GREAT, and very important.  I have a question - something that crops up a lot with some of the people I work with.  

    Lots of people with MH difficulties feel that their support networks are there, but aren't sure how to use them effectively; whilst more people are keen to make statements like 'it's ok not to be ok' and 'i'm here for you if you ever need to talk', etc etc.

    It can sometimes perhaps feel a bit like going through the motions, and the thought of actually having those conversations can still be a bit awkward, scary, stilted....

    Something I hear a lot is 'I know he/she means well, but I also know that if I actually did tell them about some of the stuff I think and feel, they'd be really freaked out and not know what to say, and I don't want to put that weight on them'.  

    So, could you give us a few tips on how to have those chats in a comfortable way, that goes beyond generic platitudes into actual conversations?  

    For example, some 'openers' for people who have are living with mental health probs who would like to talk about it with their loved ones for the first (or first few) times?  

    And for friends and family, how to respond to those openers in the most sensitive and helpful way?  

    Can you recommend any resources?

    Thanks :)

  • RebeccaMHadvisor
    RebeccaMHadvisor Member Posts: 99 Courageous

    Hi @Scope_rosie

    Thank you! A lot has happened to raise the profile of mental health recently which is a great thing. I am so pleased that, not only is it being given the profile that it needs and deserves, but also that people are putting themselves out there and saying ‘I’m here for you’.

    But knowing someone is there for you and actually opening up are two very different things.

    If you are wanting to open up there are three things that can help you start. First of all, think about who you want to open up to. The right person will make the process so much easier. Think about what you want to say. You might even want to make some notes, write it down or perhaps write a letter to give to them to read first if you feel you might not be able to say everything you want to say but remember you are in control and you only have to tell them as much as you are comfortable with. Lastly make sure you pick an appropriate place and time. Somewhere that you won’t be interrupted and you have time to talk properly.

    Friends and family really do want to help but might not know how.

    Sometimes someone can have been living with a mental health condition and dealing with it on their own for many years and they may not know how to open up so it is important to remember that. Give them time to say what they need to say and try not to interrupt, jump to conclusions and try not to judge them.

    It is also important to remember that you can’t ‘fix’ them. I have heard so many times people tell me they just wanted an ear. Just getting the words out can be enough in the beginning and it’s a great start. Most people are not looking for solutions and answers, just someone to listen. Rather than giving solutions, encourage them to talk about how they feel.

    Sometimes it can be very scary particularly if the person opening up to you has suicidal thoughts. It is important that they are safe and that they are able to access the care that they need but try not to panic. If you are able to established they are not at risk, try not to put pressure on them.

    Don’t play twenty questions. They need to be in control or what they tell you and how much so try not to quiz them about what is happening, let them lead the conversation.

    Make sure they know that they are important to you, that you are proud of them for opening up and that what they are feeling is normal.

    Remember that you might need support to. Hearing that someone you care about it suffering can be very difficult so make sure that you look after yourself too.

    There are some great resources out there. For young people ChildLine has some great advice and for adults Mind has some really useful tips and further resources.

    Hope this is useful
  • Dasiydo
    Dasiydo Member Posts: 93 Courageous
    I know what mealth health is like it hard get though in life without support but now got support with friend


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