Mental Health Check-Ins: 3 Ways to Make Sure Your Loved Ones are Doing OK.
The past 18 months have been unique for a number of reasons, and while not all of the changes have been completely bad—the growing trend of remote and flexible work being one notable bright spot—many of the changes have caused an increase in mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, among others.
Whether it is an elderly relative who has been feeling isolated and afraid, an introverted friend who has been having difficulty maintaining social or family relationships, or a co-worker who is finding it difficult to deal with the changing face of work/life balance, many of us are feeling the pressure from the ‘new normal’.
This is why it is more important than ever that we begin to normalize talking about mental health, start up conversations, and make sure that our friends and loved ones are taking precautions against mental health risks in addition to those against physical health risks such as masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing.
How You Can Check on Friends, Family, and Colleagues
It may seem like a scary conversation to have, especially if it is the first time you have talked about the subject with that persons, but there are plenty of ways to make sure things don’t get awkward when bringing up mental health issues. Here are some ways that you could start a conversation:
Bring up something you saw in the news and ask follow-ups
Mental health issues have plenty of stigma attached to them that can make it difficult to talk about since many people become defensive or avoid the conversation if they feel they are being labeled or judged.
By bringing up the topic in a neutral manner such as mentioning a study, article, or news segment you saw recently, it can make it easier for the other person to join the conversation without feeling the conversation is becoming too personal.
One version of the conversation could go like this:
You: “I saw this article recently that the pandemic as having a huge impact on people’s mental health. It’s not that surprising to me, actually. I’ve noticed that I have been feeling the negative effects of the pandemic myself.”
Them: “That’s interesting. But I’m feeling fine, as always.”
You: “I’m so glad to hear it. Well, if you ever feel like you need to talk to someone, I’m always happy to chat about anything!”
Maybe you have some friends who you haven’t spoken to in a while, or a family member who might be having a particularly difficult time. For many people suffering from mental health issues, taking the first step can seem like an impossible task, but once a conversation has been started it can be much easier for them to carry on a conversation.
Sending a message to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while can be something as simple as a silly meme or a cute cat video along with a “how have you been?”, or it could be a longer, more thoughtful note to someone you’re close to. The choice is really up to you and how your relationship with the person is.
The important thing here is to know that it’s nobody’s fault that you haven’t heard from a friend in a while, and that there is no better time than now to start the conversation back up.
Schedule a phone or video call
Texting and messaging apps are convenient, fun, and serve as a great way to stay in contact with people around the world. But, while these communication tools are great for shallow conversation and small talk with friends, or for sharing the grocery list and GIFs with your partner, we aren’t able to fully communicate our emotions, tone, and non-verbal cues to the reader meaning they are not always the best tools for deeper, more meaningful conversations.
If you are hoping to strike up a conversation with a friend or loved one about a touchy topic like mental health, it might be helpful to schedule a phone call, or even better a video call. Though telephones have been around fore more than a century, it remains one of the best forms of long-distance communication, and the addition of video in addition to voice makes video calls the ideal medium for communicating with friends and family.
And not only does it make it easier to have a deeper, more personal conversation, the act of setting aside time for the person shows that you are invested in the conversation and that you are taking a proactive role in the person’s mental health.
Checking up on friends and family doesn’t have to be a huge inconvenience, you don’t even need to go out of your way to do so. Simply keep in mind that not everyone feels as comfortable about their mental health, not everyone has the strength to start the conversation, and that sometimes, taking extra time to have a digital face-to-face can make the conversation much more enjoyable and effective.
After receiving his undergraduate degree in psychology, Scott went on to work as a teacher and educational counselor while working towards his master’s degree. He has spent several years working with children and adults and has personal experience with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Dyslexia, and Depression.