Starting the Conversation

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Many people know common signs that a friend or colleague is struggling with their mental health (click here to read a previous blog on this topic) but feel awkward trying to start a conversation. Oftentimes, the awkwardness stems from not knowing what to say.

Here are some quick tips to help you feel more confident starting a conversation about mental health:

Step 1: Choose the right time and place
The midway of the county fair comes to mind as an example of the “worst” kind of place to start a conversation. It’s a loud space filled with lots of people, many of whom are on their way to a livestock show or special event. If you want to talk to someone about their mental health (or your own), choose a private location when you have plenty of time to chat.

Step 2: Express your concern
Use “I” statements to let people know what you’ve noticed. “I’ve noticed that you seem down lately.” “I haven’t seen you at church the last few weeks. How have you been?” Simple statements like that show the person you care without making them feel defensive.

Step 3: Listen actively and without judgement

Pay attention to your friend while they are talking. Don’t let your phone become a distraction and try to avoid making the conversation about yourself. If your friend shares something that you disagree with (an action or belief), do your best to withhold judgement. At this point, it’s important to keep the conversation going.

Step 4: Offer support and suggest professional help if needed
Let your friend know that you’re there to support them. Offer practical help, like taking a meal or running errands, if possible. If your friend thinks they want to visit a professional, you can encourage them to visit with their doctor or share resources like the Farm Stress Certified provider directory or county mental health resource guide.

Starting a conversation about mental health can be awkward, but it also shows that you care and can help a friend take the first steps to improving their mental health

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