How to Have a Conversation about Mental Health
In today's world, it can be hard to get your point across. Everybody is busy. We're so used to 'on-demand', well, everything, that when it comes to discussing mental health, people just don't seem to have the time, because they assume that it's going to be long winded, and then people get despondent if there's no quick fix.
The reality is, they're right. Improving mental health can take significant time. But that's no reason to ignore the problem. In fact, it's all the more reason to begin today. We can help.
But what can I do NOW?
This is an opportunity to give you something quick and effective to really motivate you during Mental Health Awareness Week. It's time to start a conversation.
Whilst we consider a more thorough approach to how we can help support our young people's mental health and emotional wellbeing, we can take some small steps in our schools today to begin to raise pupils' awareness of this issue and make time to talk to children about their mental health. Aside from targeted assemblies and lessons, some of the most important conversations around mental health take place in due course throughout your day. You can help steer these conversations in a positive way. You don't need a meeting room - anywhere can be a good place to talk. Whether that's in a quiet corner of the classroom, the playground or at lunch. Although to you they may seem trivial, these conversations and the knowledge that support is available to them can have a significant impact on a young person's wellbeing.
What can I do to help the conversation flow?
- 1. Give your full attention: We all know it's horrible to be half listened to. Keep eye contact, focus on the child and ignore distractions.
- 2. Check your body language: Try to keep it open and relaxed and make sure you come down to the child's level.
- 3. Take it seriously: Don't downplay what the young person is saying or tell them they're “just being silly”. Resist the urge to reassure them that everything is fine.
- 4. Ask open questions: Such as “How did your day go today?” This will help to extend the conversation.
- 5. Calmly stay with the feelings that arise: It can be our automatic reaction to steer away from difficult emotions.
- 6. Offer empathy rather than solutions: Show that you accept what they are telling you but don't try to solve the problem.
- 7. Remember we are all different: Respect and value the child's feelings, even though they may be different to yours.
- 8. Look for clues about feelings: Listen to the child's words, tone of voice and body language.
- 9. Some ways to start a conversation about feelings might be: "How are you feeling at the moment?" "You don't seem your usual self. Do you want to talk about it?" "Do you fancy a chat?" "I'm always happy to listen if you need a chat."