It’s undeniable, mental health is a key part of our overall health and wellness. According to mental health.gov, one in five American adults experience a mental health issue. Mental health is a result of our environment and our biology and as such, our emotional health is a result of our life experiences both good and bad. The combination of these factors as well as family history and brain chemistry can contribute to the existence of underlying and unaddressed mental health problems in many individuals.
So what can we do today to help improve our mental health wellness? Well, one sustainable and accessible treatment starts by simply talking about it! According to Banyan Mental Health, talking about feelings and emotions can make us feel less alone and can help relieve stress just by speaking it out loud. Although many of us are not used to talking about these things, learning to have proactive conversations about mental health could make a huge impact in someone’s life. And according to The National Alliance on Mental Illness, seeking help through support systems for our physical and mental well-being helps us address and prevent crisis situations.
So how do we Spark the Conversation about mental health? Let’s check in with Alia Reichert from the Spark initiative who guides us through some common ways to talk to others about mental health.
Q: How can we start this complicated and personal conversation for ourselves?
Alia Reichert: Talking about feelings and thoughts can be scary. Start by writing them down in a journal, record what you want to say on your phone, or even talk in front of a mirror for practice.
Q: How should we have this conversation with someone else?
AR: There will never be a perfect time and that’s OK. Start by stating a fact that you’ve noticed about your friend or family member. For example, “I’ve noticed you haven’t been playing your music lately, how are you? You don’t seem like yourself.”
Q: If I talk about mental health or dark thoughts, will it cause that person to act out or harm themselves?
AR: No, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, asking someone directly if they are planning on harming themselves can help to identify if they are at risk for a serious mental health crisis such as suicide.
Q: What is the most important thing to remember when talking to others about their mental health?
AR: The most important things are the ability to listen, to not interrupt, to not diagnose (unless you are a medical professional), and to not judge the person or the feelings being shared.
Q: What if I’ve talked and still feel like harming myself, or my loved ones are threatening self-harm after talking?
AR: If you feel friends, family members, or yourself are a risk, immediate action should be taken by dialing 911 and requesting a crisis intervention officer or mobile crisis team. In nonimmediate situations, you can text, call, or chat the National Suicide Hot-line at their updated three-digit dialing code 988.
Talking about our personal thoughts and feelings is hard. The fear of being judged or labeled is real. These stigmas prevent us from speaking our truths and keep us silent. It is imperative that we rewrite the narrative and allow ourselves the ability to discuss our feelings and emotions without fear. We all have thoughts that can get us down, but the more we share with others, the more we realize we are not alone. Be well, be open to listen, be supportive, and Spark the Conversation.