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Ask Twice by Lloyd Stone

It’s very well documented that many who are experiencing poor mental health (particularly men) struggle to talk about how they are feeling and to seek help and support. It’s incredibly difficult to reach out during those tough and often dark moments – thoughts of being a burden, that other people have their own problems to deal with and the fear of people’s reactions to you opening up to them all play their part in preventing an individual from talking.

So, what if we became more pro-active and made these conversations more commonplace and less onerous for the individual? Well, we can start by asking twice. How many times a day do we ask someone ‘how are you?’ or ‘how are you doing?’ and use these as a greeting rather than a question, often not really listening to the answer. That said, the answer during these interactions is usually along the lines of ‘I’m ok thanks’, ‘I’m fine’ or ‘I’m good thanks’ (or words to that affect). Is there ever a follow up? Not really. We just get on with our day and leave it as a token gesture. But what if we did follow it up? What if we followed the ‘I’m fine’ response by asking again? ‘But really, how are you?’ Would we get the same response as previously? Maybe. But now, the person has an option. A choice to make. A chance to answer more truthfully and honestly. They now know that they have a listening ear and the opportunity they may need to reach out.

As the listener the alarm bells may be ringing, and you may be reading this and worrying about how to respond and have THAT conversation. Don’t panic! You’re not expected to give advice, miraculously sort out all of their worries and banish any dark clouds that may be lingering over them. In fact, your role is much simpler than that but just as important. Listen. Give them your attention. Acknowledge that it must be difficult for them right now. And please, don’t dismiss or play down the feelings they are experiencing, they are very real and very difficult for them to process and deal with. It’s ok to ask questions – ‘what kind of thoughts are you having?’, ‘how long have you felt like this?’ and ‘how can I help?’ Showing them that you are there for them can and will make a real difference.

The ‘ask twice’ rule – you never know where it can lead.

You can catch Lloyd on Twitter - @Lloyd_SpeakUpMH

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