How to talk about mental illness with your friends and family. This is such a tough question, and touchy subject. Some folks think that by bringing it up, you’re giving people an idea. This is not the case. People who are suicidal had already thought about it. Before you expressed concern. Trust me.
If you are thinking that someone in your life is having a particularly hard time managing, talk about it. Bring it up. Ask how things are. If they need to talk to someone more official. Everyone experiences ups and downs in their mood, but considering suicide is not the only way out. Any given feeling lasts less than ninety seconds, if you don’t feed it. There are lots of ways to support your loved ones, and being interested is the first.
Begin with a curious stance. Make sure to check judgment at the door. Same goes for problem solving, most likely. It is often the case that a person either already knows what their options are and/or possible solutions. This is not a “practical” concern. Rather, it is one of the mind and heart. Emotions are not too concerned with logic. Don’t try to solve it.
Be present. Mindfulness [link to an intro to mindfulness article] is the key here; just notice the emotional content without giving it a whole lot of meaning. There might be lots of factors contributing, but it is important to remember that there are few facts when it comes to emotions, and no ultimate truths. Things will change, that is one fact, though we can’t necessarily know how they will change. Roll with that. Detach. Know it will shift.
Validate what they say. Simply put, that means to hear them, get where they are coming from, don’t try and point out inaccuracies in their interpretations of events. Though they certainly might be present, validation means the person feels felt, seen, understood. Not challenged or criticized for “feeling wrong.”
We are living in a time where “good vibes only” is a common mantra, where Instagram and Snapchat and Facebook show us all the ways people are doing life better. It can get us down real quick, and if we aren’t careful, we start to believe that’s how everyone’s life really is. This is a dangerous place to be. We need space for people to feel authentically. To share pain and struggle and have that be okay. It starts with you. Ask your loved ones how they’re doing. How life is, really. Share honestly when people ask you. Don’t default to “fine” when that’s not the truth. Our resilience as individuals will increase as our tolerance as a society increases. We have to bring the truth into the light.
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