Talking about mental healthPatient & Families
How many of us feel like we just don’t know what to say when someone cries, has a panic attack, or shuts down. Even us therapists can safely say, yah, we’ve been there.
It will be okay. Be strong. Stay positive. You’ve got to move on. Sound familiar? These are go-to responses for any of us. We reach for them when we’re searching for the words to meet the need before us. With good intention, we try to provide assurance that it will get better, things will look brighter tomorrow. We may also reach for solutions in our attempt to fix things.
When someone is in a heightened state of emotion or just not themselves, it can be difficult to hear a broad stroke of a statement like, everything happens for a reason. Sure, maybe later on the dots will connect and give meaning to our struggle. But when things don’t feel right, visibility is a great place to start.
I hear you.
That must be difficult to bear.
That’s a lot on your shoulders.
I see you’re upset.
Being seen by another helps validate our experience. It also helps us feel connected to another. This is critical because when our mental health is suffering, we tend to feel alone in our thoughts and experiences.
We can also offer support by asking what may be helpful right now. Would space be helpful or quiet company? Does the person need a break?
Pay attention to changes in behavior. If the person is minimizing their needs, ask again. You may need to check-in a few times, in different ways. A person who’s revealed themselves through emotion may feel embarrassed. This is a tender moment and an opportunity to connect with another’s pain. Attuning to that connection is your road map. And talking with a therapist or psychologist may be an important next stop to take along the way.
Lauren Pena MFT, ATR, LMFT # 130687
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