How To Have Difficult Conversations About Mental Health – Mental health is an incredibly personal topic—one’s mental health is a very intimate part of their inner schema and personality, which makes discussing mental health an occasionally very tricky topic to broach. However, at Horizon Plymouth, we believe that individuals should not shy away from sensitive mental health conversations. Society has taught us that mental health struggles are ones that individuals need to carry alone, but this could not be further from the truth. Opening the avenue of conversation with someone who is struggling can provide them with a valuable outlet for their feelings and let them know that they do not have to walk this journey alone. It can also be a way to encourage someone to seek the help of a professional counsellor if they are dealing with very serious mental health issues that negatively affect themselves and those around them.  

Starting the conversation

If you can tell that a friend or family member is dealing with negative emotional or psychological issues, it can be difficult to know how to open a caring, non-judgmental conversation to avoid defensiveness and encourage openness and honesty. Starting the conversation is the trickiest part. Below are some tips that you might find useful when beginning a difficult conversation about mental health.  

  • Choose your location wisely: Don’t confront someone about a very sensitive topic in front of other friends and family. Choose a location that is quiet and comfortable, and preferably one that feels more casual (such as at a restaurant) so the other person does not feel trapped or as though they are being interrogated. 
  • Actively listen: As they speak, be sure that you are actively paying attention to what it is they are saying, rather than simply preparing for your next statement. Periodically reflecting back what they are saying to you can be a good way to check that you are understanding the meaning behind their words.  
  • Pay attention to body language: Allow the body language of the other person to help you to understand how the conversation is going and choose your next steps. If they are becoming defensive and visibly uncomfortable, it might be a good idea to back off for a few minutes before diving back in.  

Encourage conversations about mental health 

Even though it can be difficult and often uncomfortable to broach the subject of mental health with friends and family, it should not be a taboo subject. Encouraging open, back-and-forth discussions about mental health struggles allows individuals to feel more connected, less isolated, and understood. This improves outcomes for both individuals and communities and strengthens relationships through mutual intimacy. An important way to increase comfort level surrounding mental health conversations is by having them often, before a problem arises. This might look like checking in regularly with friends and family, asking them how they are doing and then checking back in periodically if they are struggling. It is also helpful to lead by example, being open and honest about your own mental health struggles and reaching out for help when needed. This can help to dispel the stigma that surrounds mental health conversations and make future conversations easier and more comfortable for everyone.  

Of course, if you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, it is important to work with a counsellor who can help guide you through your mental health journey. The counsellors at Horizon Plymouth have the experience and the compassion to work with clients dealing with a variety of mental health struggles. Don’t wait until your mental health becomes crisis level, reach out to schedule your initial consultation today!  

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