Tips For Talking
Start a conversation about mental health when there is an open window of time to have an in-depth discussion, and neither you or the person you’re talking to will have to cut the conversation short to take care of other obligations. Plan to set aside at least 30 minutes to an hour.
If you aren’t sure how to bring up the topic of your mental health, here are a few ways to get started:
- Start with a text if a face-to-face talk is too intimidating. It could be a plain old text message with a note that says, “I have some important things on my mind and need to make time to talk to you about them.”
- Find & share info. Find important information online that might help you explain what you’re going through. Print it and bring it with you when you’re ready to talk.
If you’re still stumped, try writing a letter.
What if someone talks to you about their mental health?
Let them finish their sentences and complete thoughts without interrupting. After they have finished you can respond.
Let Them Know If You Understand
If someone has just spilled their guts and you’ve gone through something similar—tell them. It helps a lot for someone to know they aren’t alone. Make sure you don’t switch the topic of conversation to your struggles though; focus on their needs.
Avoid Being Judgmental
Don’t tell them they are being weird or crazy; it’s not helpful at all.
Take Them Seriously
Try not to respond with statements that minimize how they are feeling or what they are going through, such as, “You’re just having a bad week,” or “I’m sure it’s nothing.”
Make Yourself Available to Talk to Again if Needed
While it can be a big relief for someone to share something they have been keeping secret, mental health struggles usually aren’t solved with one conversation. Let the person who has spoken with you know that they can reach out to you again if they are having a tough time. It’s ok to let them know if there is a time of day or certain days of the week that you aren’t available. For instance, “I’m here for you if you need to talk, but my parents don’t let me use the phone after 9 on school nights, so call before then.”
Don’t Turn What You’ve Been Told Into Gossip
If someone is talking to you about their mental health, it was probably tough for them to work up the nerve to say something in the first place and you shouldn’t share what they tell you with other students at school. Let them share on their own terms.
If You Don’t Understand, Do Some Research and Learn About What You’ve Been Told.
Make sure that your information is coming from reliable sources like government agencies and health organizations.
Tell an Adult if You Have To
It’s important to have friends that trust you, but if a friend indicates they have thoughts or plans of hurting themselves or another person, have been hearing voices or seeing things that no one else can hear or see, or have any other signs and symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored then you need to tell an adult what is going on. That doesn’t make you a bad friend; it just means that the problem requires more help than you can give. If someone you know is in crisis and needs help urgently, call Crisis Services in Marion or Polk County.