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It's Good to Talk

I have been reading about the interview with Lady Gaga and Prince William this week and watching the video. It's great to see leaders and people of influence taking responsibility for talking about mental health. 

I have had the real honour of talking to many people with mental health illness. Most of you will know of my friends at Hear Us, a charity for those with mental health illness providing training and breaking down barriers to conversation. Every time I see them they inspire me to keep making a difference.

I have also had the privilege of talking to people in crisis, those who have reached a point where they don't want to carry on as they can't see through the pain anymore. These people come from all walks of life and include close family members, friends and charity work. 

The more awareness the better but some people are still worried about what to say. Where do you start? We are great in the UK about avoiding the subject. It's much easier to talk about the weather and have typical learnt polite conversations. Even when we can see something is not quite right we will put it down to something else, avoid the subject/person or perhaps talk about the other person rather than to the other person.

Sometimes, I feel, we worry too much about what others will think. What if we're wrong and we end up insulting them. It's not our business to ask, someone else will do so. 

But what if you are right, what if the other person is having a terrible time but feels they have no one to talk to. Perhaps our avoidance is reaffirming their feelings of worthlessness or no one caring.

It's been proven in psychology asking someone if they feel suicidal will not make them suicidal. It might not be the first question you ask your friend on a night out but if you have a nagging doubt, if something doesn't feel right then ask them.

Below are a list of sentences that might help. They are framed around what are known by communications experts as "I messages" and can be found in Google searches or books on communication. The idea behind them is it's about how you feel so you are taking responsibility for your own feelings and not blaming anyone else. They also help us address what we think is going on in a non confrontational manner.

"I feel concerned when you talk about seeing no future as it sounds like you want to end your life".

"When you say you feel okay I feel worried as you are locking yourself away from your friends and I am not sure you are really okay".

Or say what you see, if someone tells you they are fine but their behaviour is completely different from being fine then address this.

" I have noticed recently you seem quite flat and sad. I saw you crying the other day and when you spoke to Jack you seemed to get a little angry, which is very unlike you".

You often know yourself if someone is behaving out of character or even if a stranger looks troubled. Giving someone time and listening to them is often the best gift you can give.

We are all different, no two people are the same. It's okay to ask for, or offer help. 

We live in such a busy, hectic world with so much going on in our own lives it can be easy to forget to make a call or send a text or say what we see. 

Sometimes we worry so much about what others might think about us we won't be direct for fear of offending. Groups like "Hear Us" and "Heads Together" break down those barriers and stigma associated with mental health illness. 

Taking 10 minutes out of our own days to use some mindfulness techniques like breathing or meditation can help us to help ourselves. 

Awareness is great for understanding, self awareness is powerful for change.

The Communication Coach

Riseley, Bedford MK44, UK

©2017 by TheCommunicationCoach.co.uk