The Importance of Conversation
Today more than ever, action needs to be taken towards making positive changes within our well-being. Our current reality has presented the collective with the opportunity to pause, reevaluate life’s priorities, and highlight where in our lives we need to replenish.
“Change comes from listening, learning, caring and conversation.“
~ quote by Gwen Ifill ~
Through conversation we are provided the opportunity to exchange thoughts and ideas with others. While we embrace conversation when we find ourselves in a place of collaboration and creativity, we tend to run away from honest and meaningful conversation when it comes to our life’s struggles.
Being human, we will at some time face one of life’s struggles; a certainty in a world that is full of uncertainty. While the experience is unique to each of us, even if we share that event with someone else, how we view the experience is informed through our personal and unique lens, shaping our perception of the situation.
We cannot control what is happening around us, however we can very much control how we cope and react to it. Mental health affects how we think, feel, and how we act. It is of our humanness that determines how we handle situations, establish, and maintain relationships, and impacts choices we make. Mental health is a part of all of us, simply because we are human.
We have all been through so much, and who we were a year ago, a month ago, a week ago, or even yesterday, is not who we are today. We have learned from our individual journeys. It is through our journeys that we can impact others within their journeys. We need to communicate even when it is uncomfortable and uneasy. Having those uncomfortable conversations, demonstrates our willingness to pull back the curtain on our own lives for someone else to gain the courage to do the same. Sharing our stories breaks down barriers, enriches the moment and prompts acceptance and appreciation.
Our end goal with these conversations is to help struggling individuals create positive change, feel supported and, if appropriate, point them in the direction of professional support.
Having honest and meaningful conversation has the power to influence and prompt change. It provides an opportunity to see things unfiltered, as they really are, and promote more peace, happiness, and wellbeing. We have been conditioned to keep our lives private, to avoid what is uncomfortable; it is now time to move beyond this conditioning and get comfortable with “Real Talk”.
STARTING THE CONVERSATION
|Be vulnerable||Share your story even when it is uncomfortable. Your experience can be inspirational to someone else. Sharing your story demonstrates authenticity and honesty.|
|Approach with non-judgement||Remember when an individual is struggling, their behaviour is not always reflective of who they are as a person. Do not ignore your own feelings or be blind to their behaviours. It is being about being open-minded. By approaching a conversation with a struggling individual from a place of non-judgment, we open the door for honest and meaningful conversation.|
|Be empathetic, open and trustworthy||No one person can truly understand what someone else is going through, no matter how similar the situations are. You may have experienced how it may feel to be in that situation, however it is about demonstrating empathy. It is truly impossible to understand the nuances of another human’s feelings.|
|Be supportive||Reinforce that you are there for them and want them to get help so that their “current” situation doesn’t continue. Being supportive is about opening up and presenting an opportunity that allows the struggling individual to gain clarity around their experience and be open, willing, and ready to seek help.|
|Approach from a place of information sharing not solution giving||It is human nature to want to reach out and help someone in need in any way we can. Approach from a place of support, provide the person with information on resources that may be available. When you share your story, you assure them their feelings are valid, however you are not there to fix. You are not there to provide solutions. You are a teammate there to support, not criticize, judge, or share opinions. You are there for conversation.|
WAYS TO CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION
|Be willing to listen to understand, not to reply||As you engage in conversation, take on the role of “helper”. Listening to understand the individual’s perspective, their feelings, their thoughts, emphasizes openness and respect. When an individual is struggling and you approach an interaction with them from a “helper” role, a helper that listens non-judgmentally, you can develop an understanding of what the individual may see as helpful support.|
|Be available and present||“You are not alone; I am here for you” is a powerful statement of support. If you state this, be prepared to back it up and follow through. It is important to maintain the relationship and the trust of the struggling individual that you don’t over-promise and set expectations you are not able to follow-through on. For the sake of your own mental health, know your limits.|
|Be proactive and take the initiative||Reach out to your family, friends, colleagues, and even your neighbors. When you take the initiative to reach out to others, even when they haven’t directly asked for it, you deepen those relationships and secure your “helper” role in the lives of others. Check in with intention and purpose.|
|Model the change you wish to see||Look inwards into your own feelings with non-judgment. Judgement is a habit that causes the mind to limit its scope, so that you see people and circumstances with “tunnel vision” based on your past opinions or experiences. Shift your mindset and engage in self-care practices that will allow you to become aware of and allow you to release your self-judgements.|
SUPPORT IS AVAILABLE
|Canadian Resources:||https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/provincial-and-territorial-covid-19-resources Suicide crisis: 1 800 SUICIDE (1-800-7842433) 310Mental Health Support: 310-6789 (no area code needed) for emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health.) Youth Against Violence Line: 1-800-680-4264 KUU-US Aboriginal crisis line: 1-800-588-8717 (24 hours) Kids Help Phone Call: 1-800-668-6868 Text: CONNECT to 686868|
|UK Resources:||https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/ https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/mental-health-and-stigma/help-and-support|
|Local Website and Emergency Contact Numbers:||https://checkpointorg.com/global/|
|Global List of Crisis Lines searchable by location:||https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help/|
|International Suicide Hotlines:||http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html|
|keep.meSAFE by guard.me Mental Wellness Student Support Program for eligible students||• Call 1-844-451-9700 for access outside Canada or the US call 001-416-380-6578.|
• Download the free My SSP app
“I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.”
~ quote by Lily Tomlin ~
Each one of us is “somebody”. While we may have different backgrounds, different opinions, different feelings, and even different experiences, we must make our own individual commitment to keeping the conversation about mental health going.
We must all be committed to being open; open to learning more about ourselves, open to learning about others, and open to learning about the impact we have upon our immediate circles, our communities, and the world.
A heartfelt thank you to the guests of Real Talk: The Importance of Conversation, who’s contributions were truly powerful, authentic, and inspirational.
Don McKenzie from Heart of a Man
Randy Thompson from LivingWorks Education Inc.
Denise Waligora from Mental Health First Aid, Mental Health Commission of Canada