Check Up: Talking about mental health

Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 4:37 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - You may have seen news stories highlighting the resources for mental health care that are available or people post on social media ‘check on your strong friends’ but how exactly do you do that?

Not everyone has access to mental health support but if you can seek professional help. Experts say having a support system in place is very important, whether for yourself or a loved-one.

“Being a human is hard right now. Between the political environment, the actual environment, sense of safety. Being able to have conversations with the people around you and checking in is so important. And that may not always look like biological family.”

So how do you check in on someone you think may be struggling or thinking of harming themselves. Experts say you need to be direct.

“But also be gentle. Don’t demean or downplay what this person is sharing with you. ‘Oh suck it up, my life was way harder than you,’ that’s not helpful. That is really more harmful because that is just reiterating the message of this person doesn’t care if I am around or not. Be direct, be gentle with it and ultimately be curious.,” Alexa Burdick explained. Burdick is a licensed associate professional counselor for Georgia Outreach.

After you check in, the work doesn’t stop there. Tonya Samuels is a licensed family and marriage therapist. She says following up is just as important as checking in.

“After they get the help that they need don’t drop the ball. Let’s just make sure we support them afterwards,” Samuels said.

Sometimes you may not even know someone is struggling—there may be no signs. You can call 988 if you or you know someone in crisis.

“If you notice that a loved one is isolating themselves or having a change in appetite to check in on them. Ultimately that is the biggest thing and maybe prefacing that sentence with hey I notice you are in your room a lot more,” Burdick said.

“Make sure you listen. That’s a big one. Listen. Listening goes a long way. A lot of times we fill the child up with you not going to do that, you are just playing, Stop talking like that. If they are saying Mom, Dad, friend ‘I don’t want to live, let’s pay attention to that. Listen and don’t judge. What are you thinking about? Why do you feel that way. Just listen to them and let them know that you care,” Samuels added.

“Being able to advocate for yourself for when things are getting to be too much if you are not comfortable with something whether that is a boundary of hey you are calling me really late I need to wake up the next day or I can’t take on this project or I can’t babysit or take you to this place or that place because I have my own stuff to do,” Burdick said.

So to bring it all together, mental health experts say:

Know there may not be any signs but look out for the ones that may come

  • Some examples could be change in personality, appetite, activity

Get professional help

  • Finding a therapist is not easy but there are tons of options for support

Follow up!

  • It is not just one conversation and that’s it. Keep up with them and their progress.

Be direct, be gentle and be curious.

If you or you know someone that is in crisis call 9-8-8. For more information on the 988 hotline, click here.