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Doing Life Together

discussion-2822066_1280If someone you love or care about it not OK, what do you say? A friend recently asked how to bring up the subject of mental health with someone she cares about. She has noticed that her friend is not eating well and is sad and down most of the time. He seems to be losing interest in things he used to like to do. She is wondering if he is clinically depressed, but doesn’t know how to begin a conversation about this.

Mental health is not an easy topic to bring up, however it is important if you have concerns about someone. One thing I hear often is that people are afraid they will say or do something that might make a person feel worse. That is rarely the case. Most times, people who are not OK value talking to someone who will listen. The important thing to do is listen and show empathy for their struggles.

To begin a conversation, simple say something like, “You know I care about you. I’ve noticed you aren’y yourself lately. I just wanted to check in and make sure you are OK.” If they open up to you, genuinely listen to their concerns. Make statements that reflect what they said, summarize their comments to show that they were heard. Always make eye contact and be attentive (no checking your phone in the middle of the conversation!). Express your appreciating that they trusted you enough to share. Validate what you heard and don’t offer a bunch of platitudes to try and make them feel better immediately. But always offer hope.

Finally, let the person know that they have your support. You don’t have to understand the ins and outs of what they are going through, simply reassure them that there is hope and help and that they can talk to you anytime. Having a conversation about someone’s mental health can feel a bit awkward, but a listening ear is usually welcomed.

If you can, direct them to helpful resources.  If you know of specific people, churches that have counseling support, or professional agencies, provide a referral or contact number.  Make it clear that you can’t necessarily fix the problem, but you know where they can get needed help.

Finally, encourage them to be a part of a group or get connected to others. Isolation is not good for any of us, especially when life becomes overwhelming. Being around people who can lift you up and support you goes a long way.

 

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