How to help when someone doesn’t want to talk about their mental health

Consider the moment

Timing can sometimes be everything when it comes to serious conversations. If you want to open up the lines of communication with someone who you think is suffering, think about the timing first. Don’t try to have a conversation when one of you is busy or rushing somewhere, and never, ever have it right before bed. Talking about serious matters right before bed can affect a person’s sleep (which is extremely important for a person’s mental health).

Talk about your own struggles

Sometimes being open and honest about your own struggles can be the thing that makes someone else feel comfortable talking. When a person hears that what they are experiencing may be normal or that a loved one has also had a slack period, it can open the lines of communication. Being able to resonate with someone and know they might understand is a great starting point for a larger two-way conversation. Just be careful not to push the subject …

Don’t force the problem or put pressure on them

If someone doesn’t want to speak, please respect their decision by not pushing the topic. Everyone handles things in their own way and there may be various reasons why they don’t want to talk. Try to be as understanding as possible of the way the person wants to cope in their own way. In that case, you can mention that there are other people they can talk to if they feel comfortable, be it a friend or a professional. Also, make sure you don’t take it personally – if they don’t want to talk to you, there could be a number of reasons (and usually a lot of those reasons have nothing to do with you).

Offer practical help

Not everyone is comfortable talking about their mental health or telling someone they’re not doing well. If we are to always encourage people to speak up, we must also be respectful if they do not want to. But that doesn’t mean we can’t help otherwise. If you notice that someone seems depressed or not themselves, think about practical ways to help them. Maybe you’ve noticed that your partner is busy at work and not getting enough sleep. Try looking for things you could do around the house or removing her hands to help relieve any pressure. Sometimes a practical help, like cooking someone a meal or shopping for groceries, can brighten up your day. Try to support them in all everyday life situations, but most importantly, help them access professional help. You can call the doctors with them, or schedule appointments on their behalf, or even attend with them, since they have consented to you doing so. Find out what they would be comfortable with and be sure to help out in whatever way you can.

Let them know they are not alone

One of the most important things to tell someone struggling with their mental health is that they are not alone. While they might not want to talk, that doesn’t mean they want to be shunned or left on their own to feel isolated. Let them know you are available to them when and if they want to talk and always make sure they know they can lean on you if they need to. Maybe making plans or suggesting things to do that don’t involve serious talking – sitting next to someone watching a movie or chatting about a TV show can be just as encouraging and heartwarming for someone.

Take care of yourself and find your own support

Simply put, we can’t help other people unless we’re good too. Make sure to take care of your own needs and give yourself the attention you deserve. Taking care of yourself is essential to be there for others. Make sure that you take care of your physical, spiritual, and emotional health to put yourself in the best possible health and in the best possible mindset to support others.

Tell them about the help available

There are many services available for someone struggling with their mental health or someone just in need of support, but knowing where to turn is important. Of course, people should know that they can turn to friends or relatives for support, but sometimes a professional can give a stranger’s perspective and some other kind of advice. Places like Beyond Blue and Lifeline offer free counseling over the phone, and services like Lysn offer psychologist appointments from the comfort of your own home. Lysn provides access to psychologists via video chat and can help you find the right online psychologist for you with a simple and sophisticated matching questionnaire.

Nancy Sokarno is a psychologist at Lysn. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world-class wellness technology that helps people find the best-suited professional psychologist while being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.

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