My journey through mental health has taught me a great many things about what it is to have a mental illness and how it feels, the daily struggles of even the simplest tasks, and how the world views you because of your mental illness. So I thought I would share my insight in the way of a Fast 5, in an effort to increase awareness, decrease stigma, and generally try to build a better future surrounding mental health.
One of the simplest things you can do, and is often overlooked due to not knowing what to say, is communicate. Start by asking if the person is OK, ask if they need anything, let them know that you are here for them. The simple act of asking someone if they are OK can make the biggest difference to a person’s day. This is why I love initiatives like RUOK Day which encourages communication and gives practical step by step guides or collaborations like #YouCanTalk which provides the tools to people so that they feel empowered to talk to a person with suicidal ideations. There are many other great resources, websites, and material out there on the big bad web; take the time to read some of it, you may be the only person someone has.
I know that this could be part of communication, but it is so important to the process, that I decided to make it its own point. Once you have opened the dialogue with someone you then need to actually stop and listen to the response. The person you are talking to may reveal something to you, and you may be the only person to hear it, or may be the only person who can take action. When listening to the person, don’t listen to answer. Listen to actually hear what the person has to say, you can take the time after they have finished to consider your response. Don’t be afraid of what they are saying to you. They may reveal to you they have suicidal thoughts, plans, and intent. This is great, as they have allowed someone else to know, which means the possibility of help is there. Remember you were given two ears and one mouth, guess which one should be used more.
3. Take Appropriate Action
Taking appropriate action does not necessarily mean dragging the person down to the local mental health ward and having them admitted. It could simply mean that you ensure the person isn’t left alone for the next day or two. It could be getting the person to have an appointment with their GP, or call a mental health service like LifeLine or BeyondBlue. If however you believe there is an imminent threat to the person’s life, they cannot be reasoned with, and otherwise refuse help, please call emergency services and have an Ambulance come to take them to a hospital where they can get acute care.
4. Don’t Judge
When someone has decided to open up to you and unload their problems and burdens, it is imperative that you are not judgmental. Someone may be having an issue, that to you seems minor or insignificant, however, to them is an insurmountable challenge. Don’t try and say cliches like Its not bad or you’ll get over it, these do nothing to help the person and only serve to degrade them. Simply accept what has been spoken, and encourage the person to talk through what solutions they have tried, or would like help with.
5. Check In
If you have had a conversation with someone while they are struggling with a mental illness, and they have decided to open up to you, ensure that you continue to check in on them. The initial conversation may have been great, or not that great, but they fact that the person had decided to open up to you means you have a responsibility to continue to help that person. A check in doesn’t have to be complicated or even that long, it could just be a simple phone call to ask how they are doing. If the person expressed suicidal thoughts make sure you ask about them, is there a plan, or intent? These things could indicate a decline in condition that requires more immediate or deliberate action. Be there for them.
That’s my fast five for Mental Health. It is in no way an exhaustive list of what should be done, or how it should be done, but it is suppose to give you the frame work to start the conversation off and what to do afterwards. I encourage you to visit the links provided in this post for more information, resources, and contact details of where to get help if needed.
Maintain the Rage