We have all heard the phrase ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’, but how true is this? Does communication really ease your worries, concerns or issues? To be clear, communication alone is not likely to solve your problem. Whether you are unable to pay the electricity bill or struggling with a bullying boss. You may be coping with domestic abuse or have been diagnosed with a serious illness. All these issues will still exist whether you talk to someone or not. However, communication will help you feel you are not alone. It will help you to put things in perspective and maybe get some fresh solutions. Talking will help to empower you to seek help when you need it. 


Time to Talk Day


Everyone should feel comfortable talking about mental health. However, many people still feel embarrassed discussing subjects such as anxiety and depression. But the more communication about mental health occurs, the more the stigma is reduced. 

The 3rd February 2022 is Time to Talk Day and at New Life Therapy we heartily support this initiative. Time to Talk Day is a global day of communication run by Mind and Rethink Mental Health, with the view that it’s hard enough struggling with mental health, without having to face the shame, judgement and isolation that often surrounds it. The aim of the day is to help end mental health discrimination. By talking about our mental health, we can help ourselves and others. It’s not about encouraging people to talk about a mental health problem if they don’t want to.


Communication and mental health


Starting conversations about your mental health can seem daunting. You don’t know whether the person you’re talking to will understand what you are going through. Perhaps you think the person has their own problems and doesn’t need any more to deal with. Or you may think they are in a happy place and you don’t want to ruin that. Whatever it is, please don’t let it stop you from sharing your feelings. If they care about you, I guarantee they will want to know and will want to try and help. Put yourself in their position, I’m sure you would want to know and to help if the situation were reversed. 

 Be honest and try to explain your feelings. You may not know exactly why you are feeling the way you do. Do not worry about perfectly describing your feelings but just try and explain as fully as you can. Talking is not a sign of weakness, in fact it is the opposite. Communication allows you to take charge of your wellbeing and is the first step to becoming healthier. Even if nothing has changed, that feeling of gaining some perspective and sharing your feelings, will automatically make you feel more in control. 

You may decide you definitely don’t want to talk to family or friends. If this is the case there are plenty of other options such as local charities or support groups. Have a look online at available groups in your area. You could also go to your GP. They will be able to help you if your mental health is impacting your life. Your GP will probably refer you to a counselling service. You could also contact a private local or online therapist. Therapists are trained professionals who will listen without judgement. 


Our emotional needs and our mental health 


As human beings we all have four physical needs and nine emotional needs. The four physical needs are those we need to survive such as air, food, water and sleep. The nine emotional needs are those we need to mentally thrive. These are security, a sense of control, attention, privacy, community, achievement, status, intimacy and a sense of purpose. Communication with others can help you improve most of these emotional needs.

Human beings are a sociable species. We need to interact with other human beings to gain a sense of belonging or community. Communicating with others on even the most basic level will help improve your ability to be part of a community. Communication can improve your sense of purpose and status within social groups. If you are able to communicate your needs and wants then others will understand you more. A greater understanding will allow them to be able to support you to achieve your goals. Communicating your vulnerabilities with someone will undoubtably strengthen your bond with them. This will provide you with a sense of intimacy and understanding with that person. This will also provide you with attention allowing you to feel supported and in control of your destiny. Strengthening these bonds with others will naturally make you feel more secure.


Friendship and communication 


It is natural and instinctive to hide away from our friends when we are suffering with our mental health. Friendships can play a key role in supporting and helping us overcome these issues. You may not know how to start the conversation with your friend. Choose a time and place where it is quiet and you feel comfortable. You may find it easier to explain in writing rather than verbally. If this is the case then write down your thoughts and feelings.

Be prepared for every reaction. In all likelihood your friend will react as you would wish. However, although mental health discussions are fairly common place these days, your friend may react badly. This could be because they are shocked or feel awkward or not know how to respond. It could be that they rely on your strength and finding out that you feel vulnerable may make them feel vulnerable in turn. They may need some time to come to terms with it, so give them time to process the news. 


Reach out to a friend 


If you are reading this and you think one of your friends or family members may have a mental health issue, here are some tips for how to start that conversation and provide them with support. 

Don’t delay the conversation

There will never be a perfect time for the conversation to take place so please don’t wait for it. Obviously, we wouldn’t recommend having the conversation in front of all their friends and family. However, the sooner you can approach the topic the better. Make sure you are in a familiar and private place and just explain why you are worried. The person has probably been trying to hide it so as not to bother you. They may initially avoid the conversation and say they are fine, but keep trying. Be patient, they will open up when the time is right for them.  

Ask questions and listen to the answer

Asking questions allows you to probe further into what the other person is going through. It also allows you to understand their experience better and demonstrates you are interested in trying to help them. Try to ask open questions so they can expand in their answer. Avoid being judgemental or defensive in your response. Try not to get angry if they say that something you said or did impacted them. It doesn’t meant that they blame you. 

You can’t solve it

Whilst you may want to offer various solutions to help your friend, remember you probably can’t fix the problem. It can be very difficult to just listen and not offer advice. The person needs to develop resilience to manage their mental health journey. They will need your support but unless they specifically ask, please don’t try to give solutions. Instead, reflect back what they are saying to you, showing that you understand and make them feel heard. 

Do something nice for them

Showing support could be done by doing something nice. Send them a nice text message or card. Let them know how much they mean to you. Give them a ring and take their mind off things for a short time. Suggest meeting up for a walk to get them out of the house for an hour or so. The more relaxed and supported they feel the more they are likely to open up when they are ready.

Feeling of overwhelm

As a friend you may start to feel overwhelmed by supporting someone else. You may feel responsible and worry more. It is important to continue to look after yourself in these situations. Take a break if you need to. Set clear boundaries, making sure the other person knows what these are. Also remember you may need to talk to someone else too about how you are feeling. Remember that listening to someone else open up can sometimes connect with feelings you have yourself, and these can leave you feeling low or emotional. 


Communication is good


This Time to Talk Day, get involved. Maybe now is the time to open up if you’ve been struggling, or reach out if you think someone else is. Follow the tips above to help a friend or family member to communicate better. It could be that conversation is a critical step in helping someone close to you, or the very thing that you needed to help you move forwards. 

And if you would like to talk to us then you can arrange a free consultation via our website. 

With warmest wishes, 

Russ & Tanya

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