October 10 marks World Mental Health Day and this year the focus is on youths and mental health in the changing world. Every year, more people speak up about mental health breaking the taboo and silent cries of those suffering from mental disorders. However, talking about mental health can be a sensitive issue to some. We share the do’s and don’ts of discussing mental health with someone who may be suffering from mental disorders.
- Acknowledge how they are feeling by asking how they are and what you can do to help. Be available to listen.
- Be informed about mental wellness by reading quality, evidence-based information and becoming familiar with the signs and symptoms.
- Encourage them to get enough sleep, eat healthy food and exercise; discourage them from self-medicating with alcohol or drugs.
- Talk about other topics too. Don’t let a mental health issue become the centre of your relationship.
- Offer practical support, such as doing their shopping or cooking meals.
- Make unhelpful or dismissive comments like “snap out of it”, “cheer up”, “forget about it”, “pull yourself together”, or “I’m sure it will pass”. These comments can make a person feel worse.
- Say you know how they feel if you don’t, as it invalidates their experience. It’s also dismissive to point out that others are worse off.
- Blame them for changes in their behaviour, even if you feel tired and frustrated.
- Pressure them if they don’t want to go out or discuss their issues with you.
- Feel guilty if you didn’t know about their mental health issue. The changes can be gradual, and people often hide their symptoms from close friends and family.