In Australia (and around the world), the prevalence of mental illness is hard to ignore, with approximately one in every five Australians (that’s 20% of the population) experiencing a mental illness each year.
This past year and a half has been particularly tough for some and unfortunately put added pressure on a person’s mental wellbeing.
Today, on R U OK? Day we’re all asking our friends, colleagues and loved ones if they’re okay. But what happens when someone doesn’t want to talk?
Below, Lysn psychologist Nancy Sokarno gives us her tips on how to help beyond the R U OK Day conversation.
Consider the timing
Timing can sometimes be everything when it comes to serious conversations. If you are wanting to open up the lines of communication with someone you think might be suffering, consider the timing first. Don’t try to have a conversation when either of you are busy or rushing off somewhere, and never, ever, have it right before bed. Talking about serious topics right before bed can affect a person’s sleep (which is incredibly 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 enough to talk. When a person hears that what they’re going through might be normal, or that someone close to them has also experienced a low period, it can open up the lines of communication. Being able to resonate with someone and knowing they might understand is a great starting point for a bigger two-way conversation. Just be sure not to push the subject…
Don’t force the issue or put pressure on them
If someone doesn’t want to talk, please respect their decision by not pushing the subject. Everyone deals with things in their own way and there could be various reasons why they don’t want to talk. Try to be as understanding as possible regarding how the person wants to cope in their own way. In this instance you can mention that there are other people they can talk to should they feel comfortable, whether it’s a friend or a professional. Also ensure that you don’t take things personally – if they don’t want to talk to you there could be a number of reasons why (and usually many 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 ok. Whilst we should always encourage people to talk, we also have to be respectful if they don’t want to. But that doesn’t mean we can’t help in other ways. If you notice someone seems down or not themselves, think about some practical ways you might be able to help them. Perhaps you’ve noticed your partner is busy with work and not getting enough sleep – try to look for things you could do around the house or take off their hands to help alleviate any pressure. Sometimes practical help like making someone a meal or picking up their groceries can be the thing to brighten their day. Try to support with any day to day life situations, but most importantly, assist them to access professional help. You might call the doctors with them, or set up appointments on their behalf, or even attend with them, given they have consented for you to do so. Find out what they would be comfortable with and be sure to assist however you can.
Let them know they are not alone
One of the most important things to say to someone struggling with their mental health is that they are not alone. While they may not want to talk, that doesn’t mean they want to be avoided 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 it. Perhaps make plans or suggest things to do that don’t involve serious talking – sitting next to someone watching a movie or having a chat about a TV show can feel just as supportive and comforting to someone.
Take care of yourself and find your own support
Put simply – We can’t help others unless we’re okay too. Make sure you take care of your own needs and give yourself the attention you deserve. Taking good care of yourself is paramount to enable you to be there for others. Ensure that you are looking after your physical, spiritual, and emotional health to put you in the best possible health and mindset to support others.
Tell them about the help available
There are many services available to someone struggling with their mental health or someone that just needs support, however it is important to know who to turn to. Of course people should know they can turn to friends or loved ones for support, but sometimes a professional can give an outsider’s perspective and a different kind of guidance. Places like Beyond Blue and Lifeline offer free over the phone counselling, and services like Lysn offer appointments with a psychologist from the comfort of your own home. Lysn provides access to psychologists via video chat and can help you find your best-fit online psychologist through a simple, sophisticated matching questionnaire.
Nancy Sokarno is a psychologist at Lysn. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health. www.welysn.com