Starting some conversations is easy: “How’s the farm?” “Did you see the game last week?” “Can you believe the weather?!” They’re simple questions, pleasantries really, that start conversations about things most of us are experiencing together.
But how do you start an uncomfortable conversation? How do you tell a friend or family member that you’re concerned about their wellbeing? This is the second in a series of posts for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and today we’ll discuss some of the ways we can start conversations about mental health.
- Consider your approach. Choose a place and time where the person won’t feel like they’re being ambushed or put on the spot.
- Use “I” statements. Let the person know what why you’re bringing up this subject by saying things like, “I’ve noticed that…” or “I’m concerned about…” This can make the person feel less likely to feel defensive, and more likely to want to address your concerns.
- Listen. Now is not the time to dole out advice or pass judgment. Ask questions when appropriate, but simply let the person talk. Pauses in the conversation can be helpful as well, as they may give you or the other person time to collect your thoughts before responding.
What comes after the conversation? There are different ways a conversation can play out, and it’s helpful to think about possible next steps.
- Your friend is okay right now. Sometimes people go through rough patches, and while they’re tough to navigate, people can bounce back with a little time and support. If this is the case, maybe offer some help (a meal, run their kids to practice, etc) and give yourself a reminder to check in again in a few days or weeks.
- They want help now. Maybe they have been struggling and are grateful for help. In crisis situations, calling 911 (for suicide emergencies) or 988 (for suicidal thoughts or other mental health concerns) is appropriate for immediate help. In non-crisis situations, you can also contact 211, check out the Ohio Mental Health Resource Guide, or the Farm Stress Certified directory for other contacts.
- They don’t want your help. Not everyone is ready to accept help or recognize that they need support. Let the person know that you’re there to support them now or in the future, and keep the lines of communication open. You never know when someone might need you down the road!
Starting certain conversations can be difficult, but it’s worth feeling the discomfort if it means reaching out to someone who may need your help!