Planning a conversation can help
If you are worried about someone’s mental well-being and unsure what to do about it, this guide to planning a conversation (from Mental Health First Aid Australia) can help.
Pick your moment
It’s important that you have adequate time to listen, focus and respond.
Right frame of mind
When preparing for a conversation about someone’s mental state, your principal focus should be on connecting and offering support. That includes being in the right frame of mind to discuss emotional or stressful things, and an understanding that the person may not be ready or willing to talk.
Choose the venue
Find somewhere that you won’t be interrupted or distracted, preferably somewhere calm, safe, neutral, conducive to conversation and sufficiently private.
Creating a safe and supportive space begins by showing a genuine, non-judgemental interest in what they are experiencing and their welfare. Use ‘I’ statements over ‘You’ statements e.g. “I’ve noticed a change in your behaviour lately” over “You have changed”
Ask open-ended questions to encourage the conversation e.g. “What’s that like for you?” over “So you feel sad?” Limit comparisons, especially if they have the potential to invite shame e.g. “How are you coping?” over “You’ve never acted like this before.”
Are you being the person they need?
Establishing the trust and connection required for a mental health conversation, requires more thoughtful consideration than a day-to-day conversational approach, and what might get someone through a tough day in the office or in their family life, may not be appropriate if they are experiencing a mental health concern.
Consider how you communicate your intentions through both your attitude and words:
Are you promoting disclosure through a genuinely supportive tone?
Are you reducing the chance of deflection by avoiding sarcasm and inappropriate humour?
Are your questions and statements judgement-free?
Are you able to speak about the problems at hand without dismissing or minimising their impact?
Are you able to listen without imposing your beliefs, experience and/or your own coping mechanisms?
Make it sustainable
When facilitating a mental health conversation, you may hear or feel things that impact you in ways you didn’t anticipate. Your safety and well-being is as important as the person you’re looking to support.
Consider the impact the length of the conversation may have on you and the person you are talking to. Overly long conversations about stress and/or mental health topics can emotionally fatigue both parties.
Normalise and encourage seeking additional. The conversation is the starting place, not the destination.
Having deep and difficult conversations may leave you feeling drained, both physically and emotionally, so it’s important to set aside time to reflect and practice self-care. Self-care techniques include:
- Taking a walk
- Engaging in exercise
- Enjoying quiet time with cup of tea, puzzle, or a book
- Reach out to someone you trust if you need support.
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
Headspace on 1800 650 890
Mental Health First Aid Australia run courses. Learn more at their website.