The Ajuda team are dedicated to doing everything in our ability to spread as much knowledge and understanding of mental health as possible. Through our range of courses, events, and awareness blogs we want to teach our customers and readers a little bit about mental health and wellbeing to help others in their daily lives. In recent weeks, we have featured blogs on PTSD, Workplace Mental Health and Children’s Mental Health – and we hope to continue writing these to help people to save lives.
This month is Time to Talk month, which is a campaign organised by the Samaritans charity to raise awareness of what their service offers to local communities. Some branches will be arranging special sessions and events to connect with local people, so take a look on the Samaritans’ website to see what your local branch has planned.
This week’s blog will keep with the talking theme, and will explore ways we can encourage conversation about mental health and talk about it with others.
How you can open up a conversation.
Just asking how the people around you are feeling on a regular basis can be an important step. It develops a bond and a level of trust where people can feel more comfortable opening up to you, as they know you care and will listen.
If you are concerned about someone in particular who is showing signs of ill mental health, set aside some time to talk to them with no interruptions or distractions, in a place where they feel comfortable. Some people you will speak to may want to avoid an intense face-to-face conversation, so it could also be a good idea to ask them what they would like to do (e.g walk, listen to some music).
Although you may need to prompt the person with some questions at times, it is important to allow them to lead the conversation and share as little or as much as they would like.
Tips for listening
Make it clear to the person that you are listening to what they are saying with simple gestures such as eye contact, nodding and small verbal responses. You could also repeat back some of the things they say to reinforce the fact that you are listening and understand what they are saying. This tip can also be useful for the person to hear back their feelings in order to process them more fully.
Asking open-ended questions are the best way to allow the person to explain the situation fully in their words. Instead of saying “I can see you are feeling down” you could try “how are you feeling at the moment?” and “when did you start to feel this way?”
Keep an open mind when listening to friends or colleagues speaking about their feelings. You may not agree with some of the things they will say, but it is important to try and remain balanced so you can offer the best advice.
How you could respond.
It can help to discuss some ideas with them about ways they might want to try and feel better in the future. Remember to keep up the open-ended questions, rather than making plans for the person and possibly taking control of the situation – it’s important that they feel in control.
As much as you may like to give the person a range of tips, ideas and advice, it is also important to remember that you are not a medical professional and in some cases it may be best to signpost the person to some professional help too. You can offer to go to the doctors with them, or support them to tell other people such as their family.
Make it clear that if they ever want to speak about it again, they can arrange another time to speak to you and that day-to-day things will not change and they will not be treated differently based on what you have heard.
Remember that if you fear for their safety, or think they may have already hurt themselves, you must contact a professional immediately.
For more tips and advice, Ajuda will be hosting our first Talking Mental Health National Conference on on 10th October 2019 at Cardiff City Stadium – providing a day of keynote speakers, expert knowledge, free resources and professional advice concerning mental health and wellbeing. Tickets cost £95.00 for a full day including a 2 course lunch and refreshments, and can be ordered from our Eventbrite page here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/talking-mental-health-national-conference-tickets-61777247410