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How to Talk to Someone About Mental Illness


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Use these tips to talk to someone you love about mental illness. Open conversations lessen the stigma surrounding mental health and well-being.

Published in: Health & Medicine
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How to Talk to Someone About Mental Illness

  1. 1. Dr. Julie Connor TED Speaker | Educator | Mental Health Advocate How to Talk to Someone You Love About Mental Illness
  2. 2. Objectives •Recognize symptoms of mental illness (particularly depression & anxiety disorders) •Discover communication tools •Distinguish between positive support & less supportive behaviors •Identify self-care tools & resources ©
  3. 3. Feeling down? Or could it be a mental illness symptom? • Does someone you love appear to be sad or anxious? • Does someone you love feel hopeless or worthless? • Does someone you love seem burdened with guilt? • Does someone you love seem unusually irritable? • Does someone you love avoid friends and family? • Have they lost interest in things they used to enjoy? • Has their eating or sleeping habits changed? Do they often feel tired? • Does someone you love personal hygiene? • Do they have difficulty concentrating or making decisions? • Do they express ongoing aches, headaches, or stomach problems? • Has someone you love tried to harm themselves? • Has someone you love expressed thoughts about suicide? ©
  4. 4. • Arrange time to discuss your concerns about a loved one’s behavior: Good example: I am concerned because you spend so much time alone. Poor example: I think you have bipolar disorder and you need to get help. • Offer support (not judgement). • Offer to help find doctor or services. • Discuss support strategies as a family. Positive Support Strategies ©
  5. 5.  Listen with empathy  Restate what you heard  Encourage person to explore options ©
  6. 6. OBSERVATION FEELING It sounds like you feel angry because … I heard you say you feel frustrated when … It must be really difficult to feel so alone. What are your options? How can I help? ©
  7. 7. Be Calm Invite Dialogue “ _____ happened. Can we talk about it?” Set Boundaries “Let’s agree to _______.” (No yelling, etc.) Identify Issue “When ____ happened, I felt ____. I need/want ______.” Reflective Listening / Ask Questions “I hear you saying ____. Is that right?” Explore Solutions & Compromise “How can we resolve this?” “What are our options?” Show Thanks “Thank you for listening.” “I’m glad we talked.” ©
  8. 8.  How are you doing?  I see (or hear, see, etc.) … Avoid assumptions.  How can I help?  Have you talked to your doctor?  Would you like to talk to someone?  I care about you. Listen with empathy. Restate what you heard. Explore solutions. Show you care. ©
  9. 9.  You look depressed.  I think you need help.  Snap out of it.  It can’t be that bad.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself.  It’s all in your head.  It could be worse.  You should get out more.  If you think you’ve got it bad …  Nothing ©
  10. 10. TALK Don’t suffer alone. Talk to a:  Parent, sibling, or relative  Teacher  Counselor  Friend  Minister  Doctor  Find a support group  Call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) ©
  11. 11. • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) Talk to trained counselors 24/7: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) • Crisis Text Line Visit Enter 741741 and type “HOME” to text a trained crisis counselor TALK ©
  12. 12. Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  13. 13.  #BeThe1TO ASK. Ask questions. “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”  #BeThe1To KEEP THEM SAFE. Ask, “Do you have a plan?” Need help? GET HELP!  #BeThe1To BE THERE. Listen.  #BeThe1To HELP THEM CONNECT. Build a support system.  #BeThe1To FOLLOW UP. Check in. Call. Text. Send a note. Suicide Prevention Lifeline ©
  14. 14. • Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig (depression, anxiety) • Dying to Be Free: A Healing Guide for Families after a Suicide Beverly Cobain & Jean Larch (suicide) • Not Just Me: Anxiety, Depression, and Learning To Embrace Your Weird by Lisa Jakub (mental illness) • Soft Spots: A Marine’s Memoir of Combat and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder by Clint Van Winkle (PTSD) • From Panic to Power by Lucinda Bassett (anxiety) • I Don’t Want to Talk About It by Terrence Real (male depression) • An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison (depression, bipolar disorder) • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie (for caregivers and family members) • The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations for Codependents by Melody Beattie Books for ADULTS about MENTAL ILLNESS ©
  15. 15. Trever Lifeline (LGBTQ): 866-488-7386 Call 800–273-8255 (TALK)
  16. 16. • Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (schizophrenia) • Free Verse by Sarah Dooley (depression) • Paperweight by Meg Haston (eating disorders, anxiety) • History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera (OCD) • This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales (depression) • When We Collided by Emery Lord (bipolar disorder) • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (social anxiety) • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (mental illness) • The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay (PTSD) • Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley (anxiety, agoraphopia) • What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee (suicide) Books for TEENS about MENTAL ILLNESS ©
  17. 17. •Record concerns & questions for professionals. – Be specific – Describe behaviors (not assumptions). •Track progress – Celebrate successes •Create a Plan – Break down tasks into chunks (schedule, planner, etc.). •Use staff and community resources. Document & Take Notes ©
  18. 18. How to Encourage RESILIENCY! • Set Goals / Track Progress / Reward Gains • Expect Positive Outcomes • Create Positive Self-Talk • Eat Healthy • Write Positive Affirmations • Vision Board / Artistic Expression • Express Gratitude • Journal • Sleep • Exercise / Yoga / Meditation Download Apps: Calm, Insight Timer, Virtual Hope Box • Play & Have Fun • Find Positive Support ©
  19. 19. Dr. Julie Connor TED Speaker | Educator | Advocate Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide Award-winning personal goal-setting book