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How to navigate conversations about mental health

Living with a mental illness can be tough but what is tougher is talking about the issue and undergoing treatment for the problem. Recovery from mental disorders involves two aspects. One is about finding hope, building one’s self-esteem, gaining a sense of purpose, building healthy relationships and gaining independence. The other is about being able to help a loved one recognize its symptoms and get the required treatment.

When a loved one faces a psychological disorder, the situation can be a challenge for those around him or her. It is important to understand that support from friends and family, especially those who have been through the same condition, can help live through the damage that mental illnesses can wreak.

Unlike other illnesses, mental illness has the capacity to build up over time. Therefore, as soon as one is able to spot certain symptoms or feel that something is not right, it is important to take charge of the situation.

Communication can help offload the burden

One of the most effective ways of intervention is communication, which should be well-planned and should be at a place free of distraction and insecurity. People often hesitate to open up about their mental health issues because of shame and stigma. Though much has been said and done for helping people talk about their mental illnesses, for many, stigma is still a reality and so is the fear of admitting the need for help. Therefore, while communicating, one should gain their trust by making them feel comfortable and assuring them of unconditional support, irrespective of the circumstances.

While bringing up the conversation about mental illness, make sure to address the following key points:

  • Be specific: As opposed to making broad or sweeping generalizations, try to share examples of times when you have felt concerned about them.
  • Ask, don’t guess: Instead of guessing what your loved one needs, it is always better to ask how you can help them. Asking creates room for empowerment.
  • Speak on your own behalf: To make the conversation more productive and thoughtful, make sure to speak on your own behalf. You can include sentences such as “I am worried about you,” or that “I care about you.”
  • Encourage professional help: Showing your unconditional support can allow a loved one to share their deepest thoughts or problems but still it is important to encourage a person to seek professional help and treatment.

While the conversation about one’s mental illness may be hard, it is important to tell your loved one that there is nothing to be afraid of.

Things to avoid

When one is able to start a conversation, one needs to avoid things that might hurt, make the sufferer feel misunderstood or may even worsen the situation. One also needs to remember not to belittle the sufferer’s feelings and have an open, healthy and non-judgmental communication.

In addition to making the sufferer feel comfortable to have a heart-to-heart discussion, one should remember the following.

  • Do not compare: As someone in recovery, you may be able to relate to some of the experiences that one undergoes. However, one should remember that symptoms of mental illness differ from person to person and that one kind of treatment might not work for everyone.
  • Identify trigger points: Mental disorders are known to cause sensitivities that might give rise to mood swings. Therefore, before starting the conversation, make sure to remove the triggers that might disrupt the flow of the conversation.
  • Acknowledge their issues: During the conversation, make sure to acknowledge to the sufferer that you understand that his or her illness is real and that you can be trusted.

Care and support

Although having a conversation with your loved one about his or her mental disorder can be tough, one needs to remember that nothing compares to a professional support and treatment. Mental health disorders can be tricky and can worsen if ignored. Therefore, make sure to help him/her get in touch with a therapist or a professional.

Sovereign Health is a leading behavioral health care provider that offers evidence-based mental health treatment. In addition to offering top-notch treatment, we offer recovery management program that helps manage recovery after successful treatment. For more information about our alumni and recovery management program and how you can benefit from it, call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-501-9425 or chat online with our representative for further assistance.

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