How to Help Someone
You don’t have to be an expert to talk to someone who isn’t doing well and be assured you will not make things worse. You may feel uncomfortable talking to someone about your concerns regarding their mental health, but simply letting them know you care can make a difference in how they are feeling, and may help you start a conversation. By talking and listening, you can create an opportunity to encourage someone to seek help. Everyone experiences mental health issues at some time in their lives, and it is imperative to understand that just being there for someone can save a life.
TIPS ON HOW TO START A CONVERSATION
PICK A GOOD PLACE
Find a quiet environment. Somewhere without distractions so the person will feel comfortable talking.
HOW TO ACTUALLY START
Start the conversation by telling the person that you have noticed they don’t seem their usual self and describe the differences in behavior or mood you have witnessed.
“You don’t seem yourself lately, are you okay? What’s going on?”
Really listen to what the person is saying. Try not to interrupt until they are finished.
Some phrases that may help encourage them to open up to you:
“I can hear that you have been going through a really difficult time. Please tell me more about it so I can understand.”
“Take your time, there is no rush. I understand it can be difficult to talk about all this.”
Comments such as “what happened next” or “I understand” goes a long way to show you are actively listening and paying attention to what they are saying.
Paraphrasing what they have said back to them also helps.
Some things they may tell you may be worrying or overwhelming to hear. Remember to stay calm and not to overreact to what they are saying as this could cause them more stress and worry.
BODY LANGUAGE IS AS IMPORTANT AS WHAT YOU SAY
Use positive body language to express you empathize and can understand what they are telling you, such as
Keep comfortable eye contact with them.
Nod your head to show you understand what they are saying.
Let them know how thankful you are that they have talked to you about what they are gong through. Let them know you understand how hard it is to talk to someone about what they are feeling and reassure them that they have taken a positive step by talking about what they are going through.
DON’T GIVE ADVICE
The most important thing you can do is to listen and show understanding, rather than giving advice. Using phrases like “what can we do to make things better?” and “I’m here for you” lets them know you are supportive of them. You don’t have to have all the right answers, but are there to help if they need it.
PRIVACY IS IMPERATIVE
It is also important to respect their privacy and don’t share anything you have spoken about unless you are concerned they may be at risk of hurting themselves.