Here’s a great definition of good mental health:
Good mental health is the ability to enjoy life and cope with its challenges
We meet so many people who are not coping or enjoying life, but we don’t like to ask about it in case we are embarrassed. But taking the initiative and asking a few questions may be a life-transforming moment for that person – and for ourselves.
So how do you do it?
You become inquisitive. Not enough of us are inquisitive about our friend’s mental health because we have been taught to think that it is nosiness. It isn’t, when you care about someone, being inquisitive is good.
‘It’s not really my business’, is an excuse. It is your business to care.
So here are seven questions to ask that may help you to make a difference.
1. “On a scale of 1 to 10 (where 10 is wonderful) how are you enjoying life?”
2. “How are you feeling?”
And there are some useful follow-on questions:
- Are you sleeping?
- Do you feel screwed up?
- Are you feeling anxious/sad?
3. “Tell me your story – what’s been happening in your life?”
4. “What do you do to help yourself cope?”
More useful follow-up questions
- Are you drinking a lot?
- Do you have anyone to talk to?
5. “Have you talked to your doctor?”
6. “Do you ever have thoughts about suicide?”
This is a really important question, even if you really don’t want to ask it. If someone does say, ‘Well, yes, occasionally’, you follow it up with this one.
- Do you ever make plans around the idea of suicide?
If the answer is ‘Yes’, then your friend needs professional help.
7. What can I do to help?
Warning: You won’t always ask all seven questions – just go with the flow.
Important note: Listen without judging – don’t use words like, ‘You should…’, ‘You shouldn’t…’, ‘You must…’, just listen!
Oh, and by the way: be bold! A conversation around two or three of those questions may save someone’s life. No, I’m not exaggerating.