What to do When Someone Else Approaches You to Start a Conversation
When someone approaches you to have a conversation about their mental health, take this opportunity seriously, as it must not have been easy for them to reach out. Keep their information confidential, as they might not want to share their struggle with others yet.
Take the time to listen, while using verbal and non-verbal speech, in order to display your dedication towards assisting. Interrupting in the middle of the conversation is not helpful, and may make the individual you are speaking to feel that you are not invested. Although asking questions is important, save them for the end in order to give space for others to think and speak their thoughts without having to worry about what is going through your mind.
Do not minimize the feelings that someone else is going through. This takes the validity out of their situation and only makes them feel unimportant. A common way that this occurs is through toxic positivity. This is evident within the phrases
“You’ll be fine.”
“Just smile. I’m sure you’ll get through this.” “You have so much to be grateful for.”
“I mean, at least it’s not —.”
While positivity itself is not toxic, using these dismissive phrases will only end the conversation and encourage someone to hide their true feelings going forward. Your response is about implementing support rather than demeaning another’s experience. Making room for negative emotions can help an individual face them, and they will make room for positivity and gratitude when the time is right for them.
Obtaining the trust from someone who has undergone mental health struggles is a huge feat, which requires you to check in and make sure that they have not further deteriorated after the last conversation. Creating intervals based on the severity of the situation displays your eagerness to help, and allows the other person to know you are there for them when they choose to reach out again. A stable mental health is not reached through having one conversation but rather it is obtained through constant and continued support.
If you are able to empathize with the situation, vocally convey that. When another individual discovers that they are not alone within this situation, it allows them to divulge deeper feelings that you may understand. You may also have advice that has helped you in the past which now makes you an accessible resource to reach out to. Although everyone’s struggle is unique to themselves, there are universal constants within situations that can permit the opportunity towards a productive conversation.