Whether you suffer from a mental illness or suspect you know someone who might, it’s your responsibility to talk up. It’s up to you to either call out for help or alternatively, offer it. And don’t ever worry about being embarrassed or embarrassing someone else. To my mind it’s the opposite.
If someone approached me concerned that I might be having mental health problems, I’d be hugely impressed by them caring enough to talk to me. Even if I was absolutely fine I’d still respect them for making the effort. Better still, if I was having problems I’d be delighted you approached me.
So here are a few tips how to go about it:
- Naturally, approach the person privately and assure them of your confidence. All-staff emails are probably best avoided.
- Take your time and be gentle. All you are doing at this time is establishing trust. If they don’t want to talk right now let them know you’re happy to do so later but don’t push it.
- Your main job is to listen and that doesn’t come easy for most of us. Don’t try jumping in with all the answers because the fact is you don’t have them.
- Be prepared to move at their pace which, if they’re quite ill, could be slightly slower than an exceptionally slow sloth.
- Respect their point of view rather than refuting it (even if it sounds crazy).
- Ask if they’ve considered seeing someone.
For most people with a mental illness, life can be alienating so your company and the fact you are prepared to listen is enough for now. Simply knowing they can turn to you is reassuring.
That said, be careful what you commit to. People who suffer from mental illness can be understandably needy. So being their best friend, trusted colleague or spouse can be incredibly demanding physically and emotionally. So why not take a test drive first and get a feel for what you’re in for before making any promises? No matter how noble or obligated you may feel, you can’t afford to sacrifice your life for the sake of another. If you do you may come to resent them and that’s going to be painful for both of you.
If you’d like to know more about setting limits click on this link for an interesting article: