Mental health is a stigmatized topic of conversation. More specifically, mental illness. This isn’t anything new, and while the topic has gained ground in terms of being more socially accepted, and further, discussed, mental health conversations aren’t anywhere near where they should be regarding advocacy and awareness. We’re certainly moving in the right direction, but I believe it will take some time to get this topic where it needs to be in order for it to be entirely destigmatized.
I was chatting with an individual not too long ago about mental health and illness and how to best go about approaching someone who may be in need of some assistance. Because mental health is so heavily stigmatized, it makes sense that, socially, we have been conditioned to perceive it with embarrassment and a feeling of awkwardness – this makes it that much more difficult to approach someone who, you suspect, is in need of some help with their own mental health.
Something to keep in mind when you’re wanting to ask someone about whether or not they would like some support regarding their mental health is to refrain from assuming. For example, say there is someone in your life you suspect is suffering from an eating disorder because they have lost a lot of weight in a short period of time and are beginning to look sickly. Sure, it makes sense to suspect this person is dealing with an eating disorder, but it doesn’t mean it’s correct. It is possible this person is actually struggling with severe anxiety, and in turn, has become frail because they are so anxious they struggle to keep food down. If you waltz on up to them and state ‘I think you have an eating disorder. Can I help you?’ chances are they’re going to become quite defensive and tell you to fuck right off.
Do you see my point?
If you’re wanting to help someone you think is struggling mentally, it is always best to enter the conversation with ignorance. Admit to them that you’re unsure of what they are dealing with, but emphasize your willingness to help them if possible. Starting things off by admitting you are unaware of their situation is a step in the right direction when it comes to earning their trust.