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  • Holly Clark

Top 5 conversation starters to start talking about Mental Health

Happy New Year! I hope you've had a lovely winter break. We've had the usual winter flu going round, alongside 2 children with chicken pox! So it's been a festive season without much sleep. Thankfully all on the mend now!

In this blog post I wanted to talk to you about listening skills.

Good listening skills are something I've often said we should teach in schools. After being a secondary teacher for 12 years I can honestly say I must have asked my students to listen to me approximately 1 billion times... (only a tiny exaggeration) but did I ever take the time to talk through what a good listener looks like? Actually no I didn't!

Being able to actively listen can be hard work. Listening carefully, asking clarifying questions, and providing feedback to show

that you are fully engaged in the conversation takes practice.

Firstly, we must make sure we are listening to hear rather than to respond. This can be hard when we're a fixer! I am a self confessed fixer. It's taken a lot of practice to not rush in with solutions. As I'm listening, my mind is racing with support services I could link them up to, or apps they could try. I want to get it all out to try and fix them... but sometimes I end up doing the opposite. I probably could have done a lot more by being quiet and letting them speak. Validating how they're feeling by listening fully and being present.

I could write about listening for hours... but let's start with starting a conversation with someone you may be concerned about.

There are many different signs that someone may be experiencing poor mental health. Some common signs include:

  • Changes in mood: You know the person, so you are best placed to recognise this change.

  • Changes in behaviour: This could be withdrawing from usual activities or acting out of character.

  • They might have difficulty concentrating, have trouble focusing or remembering things.

  • They may experience physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomach pains, that do not have a physical cause.

This list is by no means exhaustive, there are many, many more. I find it best to try and recognise a change in someone. You know the person best, you know their likes and dislikes, their pet peeves, their situation. You are far more likely to recognise a change in that person than someone who doesn't know them as well. So be aware of that, and look out for change. If you feel something in your gut, you're probably right!

If you do spot a change, then you must explore it further. Start a conversation by telling them you're concerned and what you've noticed.

Here are some top conversation starters:

If someone tells you that they are experiencing poor mental health, it is important to show empathy and support.

You could say something like:

"Thank you for telling me. I'm sorry you're going through this. It sounds really difficult. I'm here for you and I want to help in any way I can."

It is important to avoid minimising the person's feelings or offering too much advice. Instead, try to be a supportive listener and encourage the person to seek professional help if this is needed.

If the person is in crisis or is experiencing suicidal thoughts, you must take their statements seriously and seek help.

You could encourage them to call a helpline, such as The Samaritans on 116 123 or seek help from their GP. In some cases, it may be necessary to call 999.

If you want to learn more skills like this then you should consider bringing Mental Health First Aid into your workplace or organisation. This is the tip of the iceberg for the practice and skill development that takes place across the two day course.

I hope 2023 brings happiness and health to you all. I'm looking forward to bringing more content your way and delivering lots of training in workplaces across the North West and beyond.

Thanks for reading!

Holly x

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