Opening up and reaching out: 4 ways to support others and improve mental health

Opening up and reaching out: 4 ways to support others and improve mental health
Posted at 4:28 PM, May 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-23 18:30:28-04

Think back to the last time you felt really sad, overwhelmed, disappointed to the point of despair, or just stressed out. 

Now think of how you felt when you had the chance to let it all out and tell someone about it. Remember the sense of relief you got from letting go of all of that worry, grief, sadness and tension? 

We can all be that source of peace of mind for someone we know, and it’s as simple as striking up a conversation.

During May, Mental Health Month, it’s a perfect time to think about how we can support each other, and one thing we can all do is reach out to someone when they just don’t seem like themselves. 

Here are a few ways you can make a difference for someone you care about:

•    Trust your gut. You know the people in your life, and you know when they’re not acting like themselves. If something seems off, ask if they’d like to talk. Approach them in person or send a text, message or email, but take that first step. You never know if they’re silently hoping for someone to ask.
•    Listen. It sounds simple, but it can be tempting to insert our own opinions or suggestions. When someone opens up about a challenge to their mental health, they need our support, not our advice. Ask questions, show your concern, and let them say what they need to say.
•    Don’t oversimplify things. Saying something like “we’ve all been there,” or comparing the person’s issue with one of our own diminishes their problem and could make them feel like it’s their fault. Thank them for opening up to you, and offer to help.
•    Be nice! This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s imperative to be open and warm when having what can be an awkward conversation. Let them know you care about them and that’s why their concerns are important to you. And smile whenever you can.

As important as it is to be aware of others and to support them, we must also recognize when we need to open up to someone. The next time you feel stressed, depressed or anxious, think back to that last time you really let it all out and how much better you felt. 

Then find someone you feel comfortable with and let them know you could use an ear to bend or a shoulder to lean on.

For more tips on how we can all talk about mental health, as well as resources, information and a quick survey to explore our own attitudes on mental health, go to the Let’s Talk Colorado website.