You might see a lot of posts this holiday season with lists of the perfect gift to buy for your loved ones. Somewhere in the spirit of being thoughtful, we can lose sight of the person we’re actually “buying for.” There is one thing you can give to everyone on your list regardless of age, gender, religion, or your relationship to that person; the gift of a mental health check in.
With mental health related hospitalizations on the rise both nationally and within our local seacoast community, it is clear that the mental health effects of this pandemic are still ongoing. Because mental health issues may not show up as visibly as a broken arm, we often assume that those affected are not the people we know and interact with on a daily basis. The strongest prevention tool we have for reducing the number of people needing to be hospitalized for mental health is connectedness. By strengthening our connections strong on an individual, familial, and community level, we can make a difference.
When was the last time someone asked you how you are truly doing? Not just a simple greeting, but a question that comes with the intention to listen. It can feel awkward and uncomfortable to think about talking with someone about something so personal, but it does not have to be! Below are some quick tips on how to check in with someone about their mental health.
Mental Health Check Ins: A How To Guide
- Lead with a statement that normalizes talking about mental health. “This year has been difficult for a lot of people’s mental health. How has it been for you?”
- Listen, without interrupting. Smile, nod, show them that you’re paying attention.
- Validate their experience. “It must have been tough to be dealing with that while also going to work/school, being a parent/student/wife/ etc., and living through this pandemic. How you feel makes total sense. Thanks for telling me.”
- Offer to help them navigate the next steps to getting more support, if needed. “Would it be helpful for me to be a listening ear, or would you like me to help you problem solve?”
- Follow up! “I was thinking of you after our conversation last week, and I wonder how you’re feeling now.”
Remember that you don’t have to be a trained therapist to be the one making the biggest difference to someone’s mental health. A mental health check-in from a friend, a neighbor, a colleague, or even a stranger can save a life.
If you or someone you know is struggling, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. The world is a better place with you in it.