By Darren Carter, EAP Counselor
It can be an uncomfortable position when someone we know is struggling with mental health and we don’t know what to say to them. Part of you wants to check in with them, but another part of you might be anxious or scared. You may think that they will be upset with you for asking, or you may be afraid to hear what they say and that you won’t know how to help.
It is normal to feel this way. The important thing to remember is that you often can make a bigger difference than you realize. The simple act of asking, “How are you doing?” can alter a person’s perception of their day. At the very least, it lets them know that you are thinking of them.
Communicating that you care can change the way people view themselves and others. Those who are secretly struggling may believe that nobody cares. The more they hear the message that people do care about their well-being, the more likely they are to be open in sharing personal struggles and less likely to perceive themselves as a burden.
Here are some tips to reach out to people you think may be struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns:
Give them an open invitation to talk. Remember, you cannot force anyone to share. It is human nature to be resistant to someone who is demanding or confrontational. Remember to be genuine and non-confrontational. Even if they say they say are fine or wish not to talk, they will walk away knowing that you care. Those who are struggling may need some time to process that message before opening up.
If they do open up, try not to jump to solutions right away. Let them speak first and do not discount what they are feeling or going through. Do your best to validate their feelings and be genuine. Sometimes, all one needs is a listening, compassionate ear.
After you have listened and validated them, ask how you can help. As long as it is reasonable and does not put too much strain on you, it could mean the world to them. However, it is important that you do not solely take on the responsibility of trying to improve someone else’s mental health.
If you feel like they could benefit from some additional help, ask them if they have thought about counseling. Let them know that you will support them and, if you are able, that you can drive them to their first appointment for encouragement.
If they say they are planning to end their life, call emergency services right away. It is more important for them to be safe than the fear of them being upset with you.
Lastly, make sure to take care of your own mental health as well. Caring for people can be tiring. Take time for yourself and do something that restores you. If you are struggling with your mental health or having trouble coping with someone else’s mental health, the counselors at The Village would be happy to help!