You may be thinking – not another seven things post. But today is an important day for everyone, not just people with mental health problems. Now you may be thinking, what’s so important about today? Well…It’s Time to Talk Day. It’s a day where people are encouraged to talk about their mental health.
(Side note: We should talk about our mental health everyday!)
As a carer for five people with mental health problems – I’ve got used to talking about mental health any day and at any time. I’ve also got mental health problems myself and I’m well-rehearsed in talking about those too.
But, to get to the point of this post – here are 7 things being a carer for people with mental health problems has taught me. (HINT: I’m going to relate this to talking about mental health!).
- Be there for people as much as possible. If the phone rings at 5.30am in the morning and I’m not awake, I’ll pick my phone up. If it’s family, I’ll answer. I have to. If they want to talk, then talk. Sometimes I’ve thought of myself and regretted it. Other times, it’s just a short phone call, other times it’s not. I try to be there for people as much as I can.
- Just because someone says “I’m fine”, doesn’t mean they are. We are all well-versed in the phrase “I’m fine”, but how many of us really are. I can tell when my family ring me, when something is up with them. I can tell in their tone of voice. It gives it all away. I always say “What’s up?” instead of “how are you?” because it’s harder to say “I’m fine” then.
- Listen before talking. As a carer I’ve learnt not to rush into talking and asking questions. I let people tell me first. I don’t pry. This is important even with my family. I don’t know what’s inside their heads until they tell me. They have probably rung me to tell me so I wait and then talk about what they tell me.
- Be patient. It isn’t easy talking about what’s going on in your head. No-one can see it. Is it real? YES. I’m open about my mental health problems as I said before, but not everyone is. Give people space and be patient. It takes time. Give as much as you can.
- Don’t act surprised. This is probably one of the most important things I’ve learnt. If a family member or friend tells me something I don’t expect, I don’t show it. It’s passing judgement onto them and reaffirming that what they’ve told me is “abnormal” – I’d like to point out it isn’t! If you do act surprised, it can stop a person from talking.
- If you can, go somewhere quiet. Environment has a lot to do with people talking to you. I don’t talk to my family on the phone or in person when there’s a lot of action going on. It detracts away from the conversation as my brain is naturally tuned to the hustle and bustle. I go to a quiet place and talk there. I make time to do this. If I’m in a lecture then I can’t answer, but I’ll send a quick text so I can make the conversation that way until I can call. It doesn’t work for everyone, but you can try it.
- Be honest. This may contradict number 5 but honesty is the best policy. If you are concerned, tell someone. If you are worried about them, then tell them. You have to think of your own worries about someone. It may be viewed wrongly by them, but it’s important.
What have you learnt this Time to Talk day? Do you care for people with mental health problems? Let me know in the comments or on my social media accounts.