Despite the existence of many attempts in the media to normalize mental health, there is still a stigma attached to the term in many communities across the world. Many people think that seeking the help of a mental health professional means that person must be “crazy”. This has been proven as being false as many people experience many different issues in life from anxiety to Post Trauma Stress Disorder. These diagnoses don’t mean that a person is insane but it does mean they need therapy to experience good mental health.
The rumor persists though about mental health, so what does a person do when someone they know needs counseling, but is afraid to seek it? One thing that no one should do is avoid the issue or not talk about it. This will only make things worse.
First of all, don’t confront that person right away. Telling a person that they should get counselling or psychotherapy can be interpreted at telling them that they are insane. They “need help”. This is not such a good idea to do right away and can actually result in pushing away that person.
The main thing to get across with a person who may need counselling is to show them that it’s valid and healthy to do. Relating stories of family members and friends who sought mental help is just one way of showing a loved one that there is no harm in talking about mental health.
Once one has let that person know their stance on mental health, take the next step of letting them know just how far-ranging and common issues of mental health are. The reason why one does this is to let that person who might need counselling know that they are not alone and that mental health issues are very common. This makes them feel less afraid of seeking help and more likely to talk with someone about it more openly.
Now that a loved one in need of counselling or psychotherapy is more comfortable with the idea of discussing their mental health, one can approach it sympathetically and tactfully. This is the time for understanding and compassion. It is not the time to act like a bull in a china shop! The best way to start such a conversation is to tell the friend or family member that you trust them and want to know if they feel like someone who could be approached about any mental health issues that you might have.
This establishes their own sympathy by having them “put the shoe on the other foot”. It also helps to cement the trust one already has for another. Once that’s been affirmed, they can then move on to the most central part of the conversation: suggesting that they might need to get some help.
This isn’t done in a confrontational manner, either. Yes, this does take a lot of patience and time, but it is worth it if it results in a positive, caring conversation as opposed to one of confrontation. At this point, it’s best to talk over what are the reasons why you believe they need mental help, to begin with. This can be brought up simply as asking for an update on the events that are affecting that person. Through that conversation, it is then possible to say something along the lines of: “Wow, if I was going through everything you’re going through, I know I would need counseling.”
At this point, the person in question can be given that first suggestion without it seeming like one that counselling or psychotherapy is imperative. Once that is established, a person can then go on and ask if counselling is something that they are considering.
If a person says they aren’t open to the idea, it’s best not to push the option. The subject has been broached, and one can return to the possibility of counseling in the future. If a person answers that they are open to the idea of counseling, then be prepared with the material. At this point, that person will likely say that they have no idea where to start in obtaining the services of a counselor or a psychotherapist.
Without any direction, the person in question might end up dropping the idea, making it more difficult to bring up again in the future. The best thing to do is to have the proper information available. A brochure might seem a little obvious in some cases, but quite appropriate in others. A website address sent to someone’s phone or e-mail, however, is always something easily done and immediately makes the resources that person needs available right away.
Keep in mind that there’s no proven correct method of broaching the topic of mental health, but it’s always good to keep caring and compassion in mind when bringing it up.