Think about it: how often do you expect a response besides “good, and you?” when you ask someone how they are. Do you truly want an honest answer or are you just being polite? Honestly, sometimes small talk prevents us from having meaningful conversation.
One in every four people experience a mental health issue within their lifetime; yet despite the commonality, it is still difficult to open up and ask for help. The #AskTwice campaign by the social movement Time to Change encourages us to do just that ask twice when saying “are you really okay?” Not only does asking twice move conversation beyond niceties, but it allows a chance for people to open up about how they are truly feeling. This creates conversations that may begin a little uncomfortable, but are very necessary and beneficial in the end. Time to Change has provided us all with a short guide on how to successfully ask twice and be an ally to people struggling.
Our Guide to Asking Twice
“But what if I ask twice and they open up? I don’t know anything about mental health!” Don’t worry.. you don’t have to be an expert to open up about mental health. You can follow these 5 simple steps:
1. Take it seriously
It can feel embarrassing and exposing to talk about your thoughts and feelings, especially if they’re disturbing. Don’t laugh or treat it like a joke. However strange it might seem to you, remember it’s real to them.
2. Listen and reflect
You don’t have to have all the answers –just listening can make a big difference. Try and show that you’re understanding and thinking about what they’re saying. You can do this by reflecting – that is, saying something simple like, “That sounds really difficult.” You could also say something like, “Thanks for telling me,” to show that you appreciate having the conversation.
3. Ask questions
We worry about prying when it comes to others’ mental health, but it’s better to ask questions. It can help them to get things off their chest, and by keeping the conversation going, it shows that you care.
Some of the questions you might ask:
- “What does it feel like?”
- “What kind of thoughts are you having?”
- “How can I help?”
4. Don’t try and fix it
It’s human nature to want to fix things, but expecting things to change right away isn’t helpful. It’s not your job to make their mental health problem go away – it’s often more helpful just to listen, ask open questions and do things you’d normally do together.
5. Build your knowledge
You might find it helpful to learn a bit more about what they’re going through. If they mention a specific diagnosis, you could learn more about it and read personal stories by people who have experienced similar things. You might want to learn about the professional help that is available for them and suggest that they explore those options. Our friends at Mind have a handy guide on seeking help for a mental health problem, and our friends at Rethink Mental Illness have advice on what to do in a crisis.
Image and Video Credits: time-to-change.org.uk/asktwice
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