Knowing What NOT to Say is Also Critical
In this era of Covid, challenges to our mental health abound. Close friends or family members can play important front-line roles in recognizing potential problems and being a source of support. Or they can – unwittingly – make matters worse. If our goal is to help, understanding what to say and what not to say to someone struggling with their mental well-being is critical.
How Can I Best Support My Loved One?
What can we do to help a loved one who we see struggling? How do we know what to say? Mental health advocate Sahaj Kaur Kohli gets this question a lot. A Ted Talk speaker and author, Kohli is a mental-health counselor in training and the founder of Brown Girl Therapy. The organization is the first mental health and wellness community of its kind for children of immigrants.
Kohli offers useful guidelines on what to say or do if you see someone struggling emotionally – and what not to. Her guide to Dos and Don’ts is published on Ideas.Ted.com. We’ve provided an overview of Kohli’s tips below. Read the whole article for more details about each tip.
What to Say: Eight Dos
- DO listen and validate
- DO ask what they need from you
- DO offer to help with everyday tasks
- DO celebrate their wins, including the small ones
- DO read up on what they’re struggling with
- DO check in with them regularly
- DO recognize that not all mental health struggles look the same
- DO normalize talking about mental health
What Not to Say: Eight Don’ts
- DON’T compare their experience to others
- DON’T use stigmatizing language
- DON’T take their behavior personally
- DON’T be confrontational or try to control the situation
- DON’T get discouraged
- DON’T burn yourself out trying to support your loved one
- DON’T try to fix them
- DON’T avoid the feelings that come up for you
If you are that friend or family member who notices something, it may feel daunting. But you are not alone. Resources and supports are available to help inform and guide communication. Support groups provide forums for sharing information and problem-solving. Individual counseling and advice is freely available (dial 2-1-1, option 2).
In Vermont, a statewide network of community-based mental-health agencies provides a range of services to support mental and emotional well-being. Find the agency closest to you.
Learn More on What to Say and Do
Here are some other sources for information about what to say or do if you’re concerned about someone you know.
- Take a Mental Health First Aid course to learn more about the unique risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in youth or adults. To learn more visit the Vermont Care Partners webpage.
- Resources for Families Coping with Mental and Substance Use Disorders, from SAMHSA (U.S. government health information).
- How to Start a Conversation about mental health includes a great set of tools and tips. It’s part of the Jed Foundation’s #SeizetheAwkward campaign.
- Supporting someone with a mental health issue, from Healthdirect.gov (Australian government health information).
And don’t forget to check out the great resources, links, apps and information at www.COVIDSupportVT.org.
Need to Talk?
Call 2-1-1 (in Vermont) for assistance.
If you or someone you care for is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can: call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-825; text VT to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor 24/7; connect with your local community mental health center for 24/7 support.
Find resources and tools for coping with stress at www.COVIDSupportVT.org.
Find your local community mental health center by visiting Vermont Care Partners.
COVID Support VT is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, managed by Vermont’s Department of Mental Health, and administered by Vermont Care Partners, a statewide network of 16 non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and supports.