Checking in on others, particularly those who are alone or vulnerable, is important during these times of crisis.
During this Mental Health Week (May 4-10), Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Vernon and District Branch is promoting the importance of social connection and sharing our true feelings about our mental health.
“We are asking people to get real about their mental health,” said Julia Payson, CMHA Vernon executive director. “Sharing our feelings can help start conversations that lead to improved mental well-being while letting others know it’s OK to not be fine all the time.”
Due to stress and anxiety caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, more than ever, it is vital to keep connected while continuing to practice physical distancing measures.
“We need to be prepared when having these sensitive conversations that we may not be accustomed to having,” said Payson. “We encourage people to think of words they can use rather than ‘I’m fine, thanks.’”
Payson said it’s important to remember you don’t have to disclose anything you aren’t comfortable with, but expressing feelings such as ‘I feel a little off today’ or ‘I don’t feel quite myself these days,’ can help let others know how you are feeling and open the door to deeper connections with others.
Payson noted that even for CMHA’s management team, being ‘real’ during this pandemic has been difficult.
“We are used to seeing each other during face-to-face meetings that encourage mutual support. Now that we use video conferencing and phone calls, it’s been much more difficult to talk about how we feel,” she said.
For those not accustomed to sharing or responding to mental health concerns, CMHA offers some tips to guide you through the conversation:
Show you care: Let the person know that you care about them and their well-being. A conversation could start with, “I’ve been thinking about you and wondering how you are doing. You are important to me and I want to make sure you are OK.”
Ask Questions: Instead of giving advice or telling someone that they shouldn’t feel a certain way, try asking some questions. Everyone’s experience is unique and you can never know exactly how a person is feeling. If they are reluctant to share, you may want to ask, “Is there anything I can do at this moment that could help?”
Reflect: State back to the person what you hear when listening to make sure you understand them and that they know they are being heard. Statements like, “It sounds like you are concerned or worried about this. Is that correct?” can help to clarify without judgement and lead to more open dialogue.
Share your feelings back: If applicable, and if you feel comfortable, you can share your feelings if you have experienced similar concerns. It can be comforting to let the person know that they are not alone in how they are feeling. Talking through and sharing thoughts can be very helpful for someone who may be struggling.
Listen: You don’t have to have all of the answers or solve all of the problems for someone; sometimes people just need the space to vent or verbalize their fears or concerns. It can be a great help to just listen without judgement. Don’t underestimate the power of “just being present” for someone.
Support and Boundaries: Let the person know they can reach out to you for support, but also maintain healthy boundaries to take care of your own wellness. Be aware of your limits when helping someone. You can kindly suggest the person contact a resource such as the Crisis Line. “Have you heard of the Crisis Line? You don’t need to be in a crisis to call… I have their phone number if you would like to talk them. They may have some great resources to help you through this difficult time.”