September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, but mental health is a real conversation year round. Here are some tips to help.
As a therapist, my life is full of #realconvo in and outside of work. For those who are not mental health professionals, these conversations can sometimes be difficult. I am listening, and I can help you have that conversation.
When we choose to hide our problems, it can wind up not only hurting ourselves, but those around us. There is a phrase I have heard over and over through my time as a counselor - "Hurt people hurt people." There are many truthes that are found in this phrase - sometimes not knowing or not choosing to take care of ourselves causes pain to those around us, sometimes this pain can be blinding and the pain that can be shared is not on purpose.
Another problem about choosing not to have real mental health conversations is that by allowing the stigma of mental health to keep us silent, it prevents us from connecting with others. This connection not only can improve our mental health, but the mental health of someone who is in crisis. We break the stigma one conversation at a time. We heal the hurt one conversation at a time. If you don't know how to start the conversation, that's okay. Here are some tips that can help:
Sometimes you do not have to be the first one to say the words. Often those who are struggling are communicating to us through their words or behaviors.
2. Ask about their feelings
Asking "How are you really feeling?" or "What have you been doing to take care of you?" can be a great way to start a real conversation.
3. Don't "fix it" or make assumptions
Opening up can be hard. If a loved one tell you about their feelings, or expresses something that goes against your values, try to withhold judgement. Conversations about values are important too, but if strong emotions are involved the other person may feel attacked or ashamed. Try to be supportive, and offer to find someone else to help if you don't think you can. Ask if they want to just "vent" or if they would like some advice before you offer it. Sometimes our advice is something that they have already tried, and "fix it" advice can sometimes leave one or both people feeling unheard.
4. Find a way to help, or get help.
Sometimes a person just wants to vent, and that can be enough of a way to help. Sometimes they need a follow up conversation, or just someone to check in with them. If you feel that your ability to help is limited, or that your loved one is at risk of hurting themselves or others it is time to get help from someone who is trained to help. Offering to take your loved one to a helpful spaces, or to find the proper assistance, can go a long way:
“Hey, how about we go to the Priority Clinic together? I can wait outside the room if that makes you more comfortable.
As my disclaimer below states : If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, go to the emergency room or call 911 immediately. If you're having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area at any time (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). If you are located outside the United States, call your local emergency line immediately.
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If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, go to the emergency room or call 911 immediately. If you're having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area at any time (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). If you are located outside the United States, call your local emergency line immediately.