Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportunity to reach out and offer support and encouragement to a friend or loved one who may be struggling. Here is some advice for starting the conversation:
- Show that you’re concerned in a way that is not confrontational or judgmental. Let them know that you care about them, and you want to check in because you’re concerned about recent changes you’ve noticed in their mood or behavior.
- Keep questions simple. Ask how they’re doing, what they’re feeling, and how you can help provide support.
- The Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) is available free on the internet and can be a helpful guide for what questions to ask.
- Offer reassurance and hope. Let them know that they’re not alone, and that you‘re there to support them in actively seeking help to feel better.
- Avoid phrases that could sound dismissive or accusatory. Although you may not understand what they’re feeling, it’s important to only express your unwavering support.
- Suggest reaching out to a local recovery support resource. Ask if they have thought about seeking support from a professional trained to help with these types of issues. Consider having some suggestions ready to share, or offer to research local resources together.
- This is especially important because older adults who seek mental health services are more likely than younger adults to receive inappropriate or inadequate care.
- This is because primary care physicians—who provide most mental health care under Medicare—often don’t have the right training in how to recognize and treat mental health issues associated with aging.
- Because stigma and access to care can vary among different communities, also consider cultural barriers and needs when approaching your loved one.
- For example African Americans and Hispanic Americans utilize mental health services at about one-half the rate of Caucasian Americans, and Asian Americans at about one-third the rate.
- After your initial conversation, stay engaged with your loved one and check in regularly. Having consistent support from family and friends can make a huge difference in people’s well-being.
- Encourage your loved one to stay in touch and even expand their social interactions by visiting a local senior center or starting a new hobby that gets them out of the house.
Want to hear more? listen to Dr. Ken Cohen speak on mental health with KLMR radio.