People don’t know how to talk about mental ill health with their friends and loved ones. It isn’t a criticism it’s simply a fact. We don’t know how to have the conversation and we feel uncomfortable and unprepared.
The thing is though its a conversation which is vital, its a conversation which saves lives yet there’s this wall, this uncomfortable silence which we allow to sit between us and those we love. It needs to be broken down and it starts with you.
The key is to know that people who are struggling with mental ill health from anxiety to depression and grief to PTSD don’t expect you to have the answers. They don’t expect the people they love, their friends, their family to be able to make it better, to have the right words or even to understand, that isn’t what they need, that isn’t something anyone who hasn’t been on the same path can ever offer. All they want is to know you are there, to know you care and to know that you see them, that you truly see them and that you want to support them.
Your silence, albeit unintentional feeds the stigma around mental ill health, it continues the societal norm that it isn’t something to be discussed, that it isn’t normal and that in turn feeds the issue. It keeps it bottled up, it keeps it a secret to be held close to be ashamed of, it suffocates healing and recovery because it breads isolation and fear.
If your friend, family member or someone you care about is struggling, whether you know it for a fact or you suspect it check in with them. A text out of the blue, a call to see how they are, a cup of tea and an ear to listen is all that’s needed. Don’t feed the silence, don’t ignore the elephant in the room, don’t be afraid to reach out, there is no such thing as saying the wrong thing, saying nothing is the only thing that’s wrong.
Each and every one of us is responsible for breaking down the stigma, for normalising mental health conversations and for creating a society which places openness, support and recovery above entrenched attitudes of not talking about it and hoping it will go away. Be the change, send the text, ask the question, support the people you love and smash through the oppressive silence. Empower the people you care about don’t isolate them.