5 ways to talk about mental health with a mate
Brought to you by Time to Change
"Is everything alright?"
Sometimes we say we’re fine when we’re not. Everyone has done it. But, with 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem this year alone, the truth is that if a friend says they’re fine, they might not be.
To really find out, and be in their corner, just ask twice. You might find that on this occasion, you are met with “Well…”
Sometimes just gently asking again is all it takes.
Don’t worry – you don’t have to be an expert when your friend opens up about their mental health. You can follow these five simple steps:
1. Take it seriously
It can feel embarrassing and exposing, particularly for men, to talk about your thoughts and feelings. Perhaps even more so if it is somebody you have known for a long time suddenly opening up. Don’t laugh or treat it like a joke. However strange it might seem, remember it is very real to them.
2. Listen and reflect
You don’t have to have all the answers – just listening can make a big difference. Try and show that you’re taking on board what they’re saying. You can do this by reflecting and offering some simple understanding to make it clear you are listening. Even just acknowledging “that sounds really difficult” can go a long way.
You should also thank them for their honesty afterwards, to show that you appreciate having the conversation and are there, whenever they need to talk.
3. Ask questions
We worry about prying when it comes to others’ mental health, but it’s better to ask questions. It can help them to get things off their chest and by keeping the conversation going it shows that you care.
Some of the questions you might ask:
- “What does it feel like?"
- “What kind of thoughts are you having?”
- “How can I help?"
4. Don't try and fix it
Of course, you will want your friend to immediately feel better, but expecting things to change right won't help.
It’s not your job to make their mental health problem go away – it’s often more helpful just to listen, ask open questions and spend time with them. That's the best thing you can do. To be there if they need you.
5. Build your knowledge
You might find it helpful to learn a bit more about what they’re going through. If they mention a specific mental health problem, you could learn more about it and read personal stories from people who have experienced similar things. You might want to learn about the professional help that’s available to them and that they explore those options.
“What if my mate doesn’t open up, but I’m still worried?”
It can be really hard to talk about your mental health for the first time, so be patient. It might take time but asking twice will show that you care, and it will make them feel like they can come back and talk to you another time.
Even if they’re struggling, it doesn’t have to be all mental health all the time. Keep inviting them out to do the things you both love. Staying in contact can be really helpful, even if you’re just chatting about the football at the weekend, your latest Netflix addiction or what you fancy for tea.
For more ways to help your mate, head to the Time to Change website.