You’ve probably heard that it’s important to have safe spaces in which you can have conversations about wellbeing and how you’re really feeling – but it can be tricky to know how to start a conversation about mental health.
In their Time To Talk Day resources, Mind and Rethink Mental Illness reported that 9 in 10 of 16 to 24 year olds would tell friends and family that they were ‘fine’, even if they were struggling. That’s not a great start – but there are things we can do to help make it easier for people to open up.
Why it’s important to talk about wellbeing
Let’s be real: talking about mental health can be difficult.
Some people might be worried about how others will react and treat them if they speak about how they feel, while others might not have access to safe spaces to open up. Sometimes people want to ask how someone else is doing but feel worried about it being awkward – or making them feel worse.
Talking about mental health is one of the most powerful things we can do to challenge stigma and misinformation. It doesn’t always have to mean disclosing really personal things to a big audience – it can be asking a friend how they’re feeling, sharing an Instagram post from a reliable source like Best For You or Young Minds, or telling someone you trust when you’re having a bad day.
Crucially, when people are safe and supported to talk about their mental health, it means they can access help as soon as things start to feel difficult. We know that getting support sooner can make it easier for people to recover – though however long you’ve been struggling, there are people who want to listen and help you feel better.
At the same time, lots of people are working hard to make sure that young people are able to access support in a crisis, through digital resources (like Kooth and the Best For You app library), and through NHS and community services (the Best For You website has information about mental health support in north-west London).
Best For You also partners with Shout to provide the NATTER text service. Young people can always text NATTER to 85258 to text with a trained volunteer about whatever’s on their mind. Texting NATTER is free, confidential, and anonymous.
Tips for having conversations about wellbeing
When you’re thinking about how to start a conversation about mental health, there are a few things you might want to consider.
Firstly, think about when and where you’d like to chat. Some people find it easier to talk if they’re next to someone, rather than face-to-face – you could go for a walk or start a chat while you’re in the car. Others like to plan a chill activity, like cooking or craft, to help them feel relaxed as they talk. The important thing, though, is not to wait for the ‘perfect’ time or place – even if things feel a bit awkward, you can take a deep breath and go for it with a conversation starter below!
You might also want to plan what you’ll say, at least at first. While it’s impossible to predict the whole conversation, you might want to decide how you’ll bring up the topic of mental health or jot down some notes. If you want to tell someone about what you’re experiencing, you might want to write down some of the thoughts and feelings you’re struggling with, and how long things have been difficult. If you’re worried about someone else, you might want to think about what’s making you concerned.
Finally, don’t be disappointed if things don’t go perfectly. Even if someone’s not quite ready to talk (or if you’ve found it hard to express what’s on your mind), you’ve taken an important step! The chat you’ve just had might be just what they (or you) need to build trust and open up another time.
Still feeling stuck when it comes to how to start a conversation about how you’re doing? Why not start with a conversation starter?
Talk about your mental health
I saw a post about Time To Talk Day on social media. Can we talk about how I’ve been feeling?
I’ve found the news really overwhelming this week. It’s been making me feel really low and I’d like to talk about it.
I’ve been feeling really rubbish lately. Can we talk?
Did you see what [a celebrity] said about mental health this week? I really related to what they said. Recently, I’ve been feeling…
Sometimes the amount of work we have to do feels out of control! I feel really stressed and worried about it all. Can you help me find some support?
I found some information online about a mental health condition and lots of it felt really relevant to me. Could we look at it together?
I’ve got something on my mind. Can we talk about it?
Ask a friend if they’re OK
I saw a post about Time To Talk Day on social media. I wanted to ask if you’re OK – you haven’t seemed like yourself lately.
I’ve found the news really overwhelming this week. How have you found it? Do you want to talk about how it’s made you feel?
I noticed you’ve not been around as much lately. How have you been feeling? I’m here to listen.
Did you see what [a celebrity] said about mental health this week? It made me think about how difficult it can be to talk about wellbeing! How have you really been lately?
Sometimes the amount of work we have to do feels out of control! Are you coping OK? Would you like me to help you talk to anyone else about it?