Years ago, when someone broke their arm or leg, they might have someone sign their cast. More recently, many people with the same afflictions tend to decorate, bling out, or otherwise dress up their cast as a conversation starter. Just wearing a cast, someone will have to tell the story of how they got it hundreds of times. Conversely, people tend not to draw the same kind of attention to themselves regarding their behavioral health. Even having conversations about behavioral health can be polarizing for people or cause feelings of shame or duress in others’ company.
The reality of behavioral health’s ubiquity has come to a head during recent months with COVID-19. Not only have addictions, abuses, and breakdowns become more prevalent, but, in light of the isolation of social distancing, many of the checks and balances that people have put into their lives for coping, have been stripped away. Due to this reality, and the fact that we can’t always see behavioral health challenges, it is important that we feel comfortable having conversations about the challenges we face and afford room for those who are less comfortable.
Each of us can play an essential role in helping a friend or a family member build a positive, social support network. Depending on the community around us is a necessary piece of our human puzzle. As Jamie Tworkowski, founder of TWOLA, says, “Our job is to love people; when it hurts, when it’s awkward and when it is uncool and embarrassing. Our job is to stand together, to carry the burdens of one another, and to meet each other in our questions.”
With that in mind, we at CHP want to help you find a way to be there for those around you, your friends, and family when behavioral health might be a concern. Here are our five tips for engaging people close to you about behavioral health.
Call or text your friend or family member every week. Check-in with them if you know things are particularly tough at the moment or reach out to let them know you are thinking about them. Let them know that you are there; it will make a difference, no matter how brief.
Much like the invite to a highly-introverted friend, they will appreciate being included even if they don’t always come. A friend or family member left out may exasperate feelings of isolation. Especially in a time in our lives where social distancing erodes the confidence in public interaction, letting that friend or family member know that you want them with you may encourage them as they work through what they are feeling.
At CHP, our clinics are warm and welcoming to those who want to discuss behavioral health further. In Montana, whether in response to long winters, population spread, and especially now with COVID-19, individuals from all walks of life suffer through a number of circumstances. Understanding what local communities are dealing with may help you feel empowered to engage your friends and family better. When you find out more about what they are going through, you can better assist others in future situations. Good resources exist at the Help Center – 406/586-3333, 24 hours a day.
Our words can wound just as powerfully as they can build up. When someone uses words such as “you’ll get over it,” “toughen up,” or “snap out of it,” they minimize the reality of what someone else is feeling. The essential message that your family member or friend needs to hear is that they are not alone and can get through this. Reassure them that everything will be okay and that you are there for them.
Talking about behavioral health can be difficult and awkward, but it doesn’t have to be. The importance isn’t in your expertise, but your attentiveness. Just asking how someone is doing can make a huge difference. This isn’t a quick-fix zone, so it may take time to build a conversation that helps someone take a step in a good direction. Patience is key, and whether someone is ready to have that conversation with you or not, most people will appreciate your care and support in trying to start the conversation in the first place.
If you’re not exactly sure where to begin, you can start by asking them how they are or share a healthy activity that might stir conversations in different ways. Genuine conversation, interest, and care go a long way in these times. Knowing the warning signs to look for so you can know when to offer extra support is also very helpful when it comes to being there for them.
No matter the path a behavioral health conversation takes, be prepared to walk it with whomever you’re reaching out to. At CHP, we want everyone to feel confident in having a conversation about behavioral health, whether you are in need or in community with someone who is. When we are better at having these conversations with each other, the feelings surrounding the general discussion of behavioral health will soften.
Ultimately, we are all in this together. If we can begin a conversation about behavioral health, help sustain care and communication with our friends and family, or even encourage someone with a non-judgmental ear, as they seek professional support, we might be able to make a difference in overall health in our communities. That’s what CHP is all about: enhancing the health and well-being of people, affording 100% access to the community, without disparity. Connect with us today and find out why people are saying CHP is for Me!