recognizing mental health, what to say, what to do

Recognizing Mental Health Issues: What to Say and What to Do

By: Schatzie Brunner, Founder, New Way Now

We all notice when friends, family, or co-workers begin to behave differently. Maybe they suddenly have a short fuse. Or they might be much quieter than they have ever been in the past. Perhaps they are late getting to work, and their work product isn’t what it once was.

How many times have we noticed someone who seems to be different, and you can’t put your finger on just what the problem is.  That’s your cue to help instead of dismissing what you see as none of your business.  What if you knew what to say? Wouldn’t it make a difference in how you might approach the other person? Here are a couple of suggestions.

“Is anything wrong?  You seem different.”

“You don’t seem to be yourself lately.”

“You seem distracted. Is anything wrong?”

If the other person becomes defensive or dismisses your comment, that’s your cue to say, “Oh, I’m sorry. My mistake. But if you ever do need to talk to someone, I’m here for you.”

You are there to listen NOT to fix the other person. Just listen and support their feelings, no matter how odd they may seem to you. And encourage them to get professional help. My website, newwaynow.org, has a quick questionnaire that can anonymously tell you if you are struggling and how disruptive your moods have become.

It really is that simple. I truly believe if more of us asked these simple questions, more people would admit to needing to get help.

Suppose the person you addressed is ashamed of how they feel or are frightened by the prospect of opening up. In that case, they may actually be crying for help and desperately want and need your support.  If they are depressed, they may be relieved even if the stigma that still gets in the way can make them resistant at first.

If you don’t feel the self-confidence to gently ask these questions, find someone you trust to ask instead. Find someplace private in either a home or office setting and express sincere concern to reassure the other person you represent safety.  Troubled people don’t ever feel safe and will go to extremes to hide just how unsafe they feel.

Particularly now that we are being forced to stay apart, it is easy to feel lonely. The mental health stigma keeps people ashamed of what they feel and what they feel is common. It may be distressing, but it is not abnormal.  That’s the point. No matter what has gone on in someone’s head, others have felt it before.  If more people understood that, the stigma could fade instead of keeping us struggling on our own.

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