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Tips to get started

Learn how to begin supporting someone you care about using these tips.

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Starting a difficult conversation.

There can be a lot of fear and anxiety around starting a conversation. Overcome that fear by mentally preparing – try to imagine how you would feel in their situation.

Expect each person to respond differently.

Let them respond and talk as much – or as little – as they need.

Choose locations that work for them.

Recognize the pandemic may have affected where people are comfortable meeting for a long time to come. Going outside or online may work well.

Recognize burnout.

High levels of stress can make many of us feel “burnt out.” This can look like exhaustion, isolation, frequent illness, and cynicism. Be aware of these signs and symptoms in your loved ones.

Choose a moment that works for them.

Send messages or suggest meeting times when it best fits their schedule.

“Is this a good time to talk? When is a better time?”

Consider sending a text.  

It’s OK to start the conversation with a text message. Make sure to follow up and offer other places to talk.

Celebrate small wins.

When someone is going through a tough time, they may see tasks as huge obstacles. Ask them how they might break big tasks down into smaller parts. And then celebrate each milestone they reach. Let them know that you see and appreciate their progress.

Create a safe space.

Let them know their answers won’t change what you think about them.

Show you’re ready to listen.

Don’t start a conversation while you’re distracted. Give your full attention.

Let them set the pace.

Use open ended questions that encourage conversations instead of drilling them with back-to-back questions.

Just listen.

Sometimes just listening is enough. Avoid interrupting and offering quick fixes.

Do I accept when things are challenging for them?

Be patient and don’t hold their bad days against them.

Expect each person to respond differently.

Let them respond and talk as much – or as little – as they need.

It can be challenging.

Supporting someone you care for isn’t always easy. Sometimes stress can come between you and them but remember that you are not alone. Make sure to recharge by taking care of your own well-being.

Create a judgement-free zone.

Ask questions like, “How are you feeling?”

Am I taking it personally?

Remember, mental health is a continuum with bad days and good days. Be understanding.

Am I expecting their illness will be fixed and disappear?

Reflect on your expectations for them to be “cured.”

Overcoming fear.

Beginning those difficult conversations can be scary, but there is no “right” way to support someone. Be calm, patient, and understanding to create a safe space for them to open up.

Choose your response to common scenarios and practice talking about mental health.

Try it out
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