But, before you start a difficult conversation, prepare yourself.
Is a friend, family member or collegue just acting a little differently? Is he withdrawn from usual social interactions? Recently gone through something traumatic in their life such as the loss of a loved one or a marriage breakdown? Or simply just acting a little ‘off’.
Before you ask the important ‘how are you?’ you need to ask yourself if you are ready for the answer to be ‘no’ and preapred for the consquences of asking. Are you ready for your friend, loved one or collegue to tell you that they do not want to discuss anything with you? Are you ready to be completely non-judgemental of their situation and maybe a side of them that you never knew exisited?
How is your mental health? Do you have the mental capacity or time to help someone else and be a constant pillar of strength in their lives? If the answer is Great and Yes then you are ready.
- Pick a time & location
- Make sure that you will both be in private and are also doing an activity instead of just staring at each other, it will loosen the atmosphere.
- Maybe this conversation could take place over text message if the person lives too far away or isn’t fond of social interaction anymore.
- Prepare for no conversation at all, but don’t give up easily but know when is the best time to stop pushing. They are now aware you want to help them and you are there.
- Ask the question you are wanting to ask, you will not hurt anyones feelings or make them feel worse – there is no harm asking something you are thinking about; ‘You haven’t been yourself lately what’s up?’ – ‘You seem to be struggling since X, is there anything I can do to help?’ – ‘I was just wondering how you are keeping since X and want you to know that you always have me’
- Listen – if they begin to open up, it must come with no interuptions or distractions. Turn off your phone, listen and take in all information – you may need it later.
- Delve – after they are finished, thank them for trusting you with this information and go back over things you think are important and ask about them further – these could be triggers, things you might have misheard etc.
- Accept – what your friend has told you shouldnt change your perception, understand that its important that you remain a support system no matter what information you have heard.
- Encourage – time to make moves, encourage them to speak to a professional at your community mental health unit or make links with a community voluntary organisation who works with mental health and they will be able to provide you with information that suits his particular needs.
- Recover – remain a solid influence in their life, check in on your mate and make sure that they are moving forward – not backward.
If you mate expresses to you that they are feeling suicidal – the above will not work. This is a serious statement and you will need to inform the local crisis team of this persons mental state. They cannot be left alone or trusted whilst in this state.