Now more than ever, we should help each other get through this pandemic. A lot of people are already experiencing mental distress, and we can do our part to support them.
But what are the best ways to show that we care? Remember, we need to be extra cautious because we are dealing with a sensitive issue. Not doing it right can cause further issues. Today, we got Ming Xiu, the founder and executive director of CampusPSY, a non-profit organization that promotes mental health awareness and peer support among youths and young working adults in schools and workplaces.
Supporting people with mental distress
Be there for them
It is crucial that we lend a listening ear to a person who is having mental issues. Be genuine and show real empathy. As a rule of thumb, we shouldn’t give an advice if we are not an expert. What matters most is that we are there for them if they need someone to listen.
Create a safe space
We all have different experiences in life, and we have different thresholds in terms of pain and stress. What might be stressful for one might be different from others. So, if someone shares about their challenges and how it affects them mentally, do not downplay it. Remember that every feeling and emotion is valid.
Reach out to a professional
If we feel that the condition is too severe, then we can always talk to an expert to be guided on what to do. We do not recommend forcing anyone to seek professional help because chances are, they might isolate themselves even more.
Alert relevant authorities, if necessary
Also, be on the lookout if a person seems to have thoughts about hurting themselves and other people. If this is the case, we must call the authorities before the problem gets worse.
How to make mentally distress people to open up
When dealing with someone who is mentally distressed, we can use the funneling technique to start a conversation. The way this works is that we ask general questions, followed by more specific ones. This includes the signs and symptoms they currently experience. When we’ve already reached a deeper point in our conversation, we can ask the person if they have suicidal thoughts.
Some people will say that this is unnecessary and that we are planting suicidal ideas to one’s head, but that’s a misconception. In a lot of cases, such types of conversation could help people feel lighter. Just make sure that we show genuine empathy and that we care.
How to converse with mentally distressed people
It is a must that we use simple language when talking to people suffering from mental distress. If necessary, paraphrase what they say to validate that we have understood them correctly. Bear in mind that paraphrasing is different from just repeating or parroting. And if in case they are not ready to talk to us, respect their decision and give them the space.
We also need to maintain a good body posture, eye contact, and a soft facial expression. This adds to a safer environment which allows the other person to open up.
Avoid the following:
Here’s a quick summary of what we should not do when dealing with people with mental distress:
Avoid giving advice or lectures. We should leave this to the professionals.
Do not minimize their situation or downplay what they have lost or experience.
Setting unrealistic or unhelpful expectations from them