Dear Tacit: A column on mental health

Dear Tacit: a column on mental health

Kim Silverthorn Master Practitioner of Clinical Counselling (M.P.C.C.) jpg, BN

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Dear Tacit,

I think someone I know might be having some mental health problems – I want to be supportive, but I don’t know how to ask them about what is going on without sounding like I am looking for gossip or being rude/offensive.

Signed: Awkward Conversations

Dear Awkward Conversations,

Your heart is in the right place – let it guide you! Have you seen the short Youtube video about this very question? If not, check it out at www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gKtVoSgNNM.

When planning to broach the discussion, consider how you might approach a friend in need and apply the same principles. Be discreet – don’t have this conversation around the office water cooler or at the bar. Pick the right timing – don’t suddenly throw the question into an already tense or focused conversation. Be sensitive and gracious – leave the judgments at home. Be curious – allow the person who is struggling to educate you, and don’t offer your preconceived ideas as an explanation of how much you already know about what they must be going through. Be direct – don’t beat around the bush or try to dress things up in vague references (if you can’t handle asking the question, it’s likely the person you are talking to won’t feel you can handle the honest answer).

Instead of asking if the other person is having a mental health problem (using closed-ended questions limits the dialogue and begs for an immediate “no” response), mention the changes that you have noticed in the person and express a desire to understand and help.

Create a situation that invites the other person to share what has been happening in their life – talking over a nice meal or a warm cup of tea never hurts. Remember that the word LISTEN is an anagram that also spells SILENT – show that you are actively hearing what the other person is telling you, and don’t turn the conversation back to yourself.

It is through genuine connection with one another that we can truly be a support to someone who is dealing with any kind of mental health issue.

Take care!

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