Addressing a mental health issue can be a very sensitive conversation and should be communicated with utmost empathy and compassion.
SOME TIPS ON HOW TO START A CONVERSATION:
- RESPECT PRIVACY: Talk to your loved one privately in a quiet and safe environment where both they and you are comfortable speakings openly. Having an intervention with too many people causes them embarrassment.
- ASSERTIVE STATEMENTS: Use ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements: for example, ‘I have observed a change in your behavior recently, and ‘I am concerned about you’ instead of saying ‘Your behavior has changed, ‘you are always angry or upset these days’
- SUGGEST DON’T IMPOSE: Instead of telling or forcing them,’ You have to speak to someone or ‘you need to get help’; suggest, ‘Do you want to talk to a professional about it? , ‘I could help you get help if that is what you want, ‘I think a professional could provide you some type of help that I cannot. Forcing them to do something against their will could cause a dispute and make them shut you out completely (even if they were willing to talk about it before).
- BE ASSURING: When having a conversation about mental health, due to the stigma attached to it, many people feel ashamed and embarrassed to admit they are feeling this way. They also fear abandonment from their loved ones because they are ‘sick all the time ’. It is necessary for you to assure them, ‘you are not alone, I am here for you, ‘I care about you and I want to help, ‘you are not worthless or helpless. ‘I think that an experienced professional can provide a different kind of help that friends and family cannot. It does not mean I am not available for you’
- CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY: When talking about mental illness using words like ‘crazy, ‘insane’, ‘stupid’, ‘senseless’, ‘emotional’ can have a negative impact on your loved one. They need reassurance that even though they might feel ‘not right in the head’ you still believe they are not helpless or worse ‘crazy’. Do not bring up bad habits, past arguments, work-related stress, or friends and blame that to be the cause of their depression. Example, ‘I told you, but you never listened and see now what happened’, ‘hanging out with those friends is what caused this, ‘your poor management of time has led to this’ etc.
BE PREPARED BEFORE TALKING ABOUT/SUGGESTING THERAPY:
- EDUCATE YOURSELF: About the various treatment options available, difference between a psychologist and psychiatrist, medications, alternative therapies, support groups in your area.
- CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT: Be careful while giving examples of others you know who have experienced depression. Since symptoms are unique to an individual, generalised treatment that worked for someone else may not work for your family member. Not everyone who suffers from depression benefit from medication and therapy. Conventional methods might not work, so be prepared to explore alternative options such as occupational therapy, mindful meditation, cognitive behavioural therapy, yoga, movement therapy, somatic therapy etc.
- EMPATHISE DON’T SYMPATHISE: Seeing a loved one suffering, causes you pain as well. We must however put ourselves into their shoes and understand what they are going through instead of pitying them. It is not acceptable to approach the subject if you start crying and say, ‘I feel so bad for you’, or ‘poor you’ is. Prepare yourself for an emotional conversation before-hand and use more empathetic statements, such as, ‘I don’t know what you are feeling from within, but I want to try to understand’ , ‘I want to be there in any way I can/ you need me to’.
- DEFENSIVENESS OR REJECTION: You cannot know how your family member is going to react when you suggest therapy. Be prepared for them to be defensive, hurt, insulted and even angry at you. They might say, ‘I hate you’, ‘how dare you say this to me’, ‘I don’t want to ever talk about this again’. You cannot take anything they say personally nor should you avoid having the conversation in fear of how they might respond. It is in their best interest to not be in denial about their feelings or suffer silently because they think you are trying to hide/ignore the problem or are embarrassed of them.
- SHARE THE BURDEN: You cannot discount your own mental health while trying to help your loved one. In order to support them you need to have the mental capacity yourself. Be prepared to take on additional responsibilities of household/work related tasks, finances, taking care of children etc. Seek help yourself by talking to someone or searching for a support group.
- FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS: It would be ignorant and impractical not to consider the financial aspect of seeking therapy. Your therapist may suggest more than one session per week and it could get expensive. You must be prepared to accept the financial implications.
** RED FLAGS: Indicating emergency psychiatric help is required (It could mean you have to go against their will)**
- Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), suicidal ideation, or suicide attempts, example: The world would be better without me, I don’t want to do it, nothing matters to me etc.
- Self-destructive or harmful actions (cutting oneself, rash driving, throwing things around, standing on a ledge at a height)
- Suddenly making a will and trying to get their affairs in order: giving large sums of money away, saying goodbye, changing names on official documents etc.
- Excessive alcohol or drug use (seeking out people to buy drugs)
- Suddenly becoming extremely calm and peaceful after struggling with depression for months
WHAT NOT TO EXPECT WHEN THEY START THERAPY:
- IMMEDIATE RESULTS: Therapy is a slow and gradual process, do not expect a noticeable result within the first few sessions.
- THE THERAPIST WILL BE THE RIGHT FIT: We usually tend to consult a therapist suggested by someone else who has been in therapy. This does not mean that it will work out for them. Finding a therapist who is the right fit for your family member may require consulting more than one health care professional and choosing whom they are most comfortable with. Do not expect the first one to stick.
- SHARING: Do not expect your loved one to share everything they discuss in their sessions with you, especially your partner or child. Don’t be invasive by asking them, ‘what did you talk about’, ‘what did your therapist say’, ‘did you talk about me?’, ‘did you tell them about your mood swings’ etc.
- YOU CAN STOP THERAPY: Do not expect that once the medication and therapy shows noticeable changes that you can stop therapy. Medication treats the chemical imbalances in the brain and reduces the symptoms of anxiety. It does not however change the negative automatic ideations and lack of motivation one feels. These are triggered by external events or situations. Even if the person is feeling better right now, any external trigger can cause regression and symptoms may resurface. Therapy provides that constant support and fall-back, like a safety net, that will protect you when disturbing situations trigger your anxiety. You can reduce the number of sessions, but don’t expect that they can JUST stop altogether.
- SMOOTH SAILING: a mental health illness does not just affect the person suffering, but those around them as well. You must expect that it can bring out the worst in you, you can resent your loved one or be angry at them when they try to discuss issues that they talked about with the therapist. It can bring up unpleasant conversation about past traumas, conflicts and blame for a lot of things. You must stay strong and continue to support them no matter what. You must never abandon them even though they might hurt you. Do not expect a smooth sailing once they start going to therapy.
HOW WE HERE AT KAREOPTIONS CAN HELP?
Our second medical opinion service brings the top medical expert from the leading institutions around the world. You can select the therapist of your choice by reviewing their field of expertise, experience, age, gender, ethnicity etc. You can request for a change of therapist or a second opinion if you are not comfortable with your primary choice.
We keep the entire interaction easy for you at the comfort of your home, at your convenience through our simple, easy to use online platform. Right from collection of medical information to getting written reports about the treatment plan, everything can be done online.
You don’t have to communicate the same information multiple times with different doctors. A medical coordinator is assigned to you who can guide you through the process and book appointments for you and also follows up with you for continuation of treatment and discusses the written reports with you.
Going through a mental illness is hard enough as it is. Making decisions can be stressful and scary. Consulting with KareOptions for a second medical opinion can help you to understand your condition, the diagnosis and learn more about the alternative treatment options so you can ultimately make a well- informed choice.
Besides all your best efforts and going about the whole situation in the right way, ultimately it is in the hands of your loved ones to get the help they need. They may still refuse to consult a professional and continue to function as if nothing has happened. All you can do in such a situation is be patient and gently persistent without forcing or imposing your will.