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Suggestions on how you may approach someone living with a mental health condition:

 Millions of people in the suffering from a mental health condition, you likely encounter people with a mental illness in your family or in your daily life. However, if you are unsure of how best to approach someone who may be struggling, these tips may help.

  • Talk to them in a space that is comfortable, where you won’t likely be interrupted and where there are likely minimal distractions.
  • Ease into the conversation, gradually. It may be that the person is not in a place to talk, and that is OK. Greeting them and extending a gentle kindness can go a long way. Sometimes less is more.
  • Be sure to speak in a relaxed and calm manner.
  • Communicate in a straightforward manner and stick to one topic at a time.
  • Be respectful, compassionate and empathetic to their feelings by engaging in reflective listening, such as “I hear that you are having a bad day today. Yes, some days are certainly more challenging than others. I understand.”
  • Instead of directing the conversation at them with ‘you’ statements, use ‘I’ statements instead.
  • Be a good listener, be responsive and make eye contact with a caring approach.
  • Ask them appropriate questions and avoid prying.
  • Give them the opportunity to talk and open up but don’t press.
  • Share some easy insights as a way of encouraging easy conversation, such as comments about the weather, the community or other.
  • Reduce any defensiveness by sharing your feelings and looking for common ground.
  • Speak at a level appropriate to their age and development level. Keep in mind that mental illness has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence.
  • Be aware of a person becoming upset or confused by your conversation with them.
  • Show respect and understanding for how they describe and interpret their symptoms.
  • Genuinely express your concern.
  • Offer your support and connect them to help if you feel that they need it. Ask, “How can I help?” if appropriate, or even, “Can I pray with you now?” if appropriate.
  • Give the person hope for recovery, offer encouragement and prayers.

Things to Avoid Saying:

  • “Just pray about it.”
  • “You just need to change you’re attitude.”
  • “Stop harping on the negative, you should just start living.”
  • “Everyone feels that way sometimes.”
  • “You have the same illness as my (whoever).”
  • “Yes, we all feel a little crazy now and then.”

Things to Avoid Doing:

  • Criticizing blaming or raising your voice at them.
  • Talking too much, too rapidly, too loudly. Silence and pauses are ok.
  • Showing any form of hostility towards them.
  • Assuming things about them or their situation.
  • Being sarcastic or making jokes about their condition.
  • Patronizing them or saying anything condescending. 

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