It’s a cliché that small things make a big difference but when you are sharing about your mental health it really is the small things that make a difference. These small things come into two categories; those that make it easier and those that make it all the more difficult to share. This is my opinion of which small things can help or hinder.
When I was opening up about my mental health I encountered both. However I want to focus on the small things that helped me, first of all. The first small thing that helped make a big difference to me was that I was listened to. Being listened to makes a huge difference and is one of the easiest things you can do when someone decides to open up about their mental health. Just sitting there I know might sound like it won’t help but your presence and lack of judgement are hugely beneficial in helping someone be more open.
Another small thing that can help make a big difference is a hug. Obviously not everyone wants to be hugged so asking first is one bit of advice for this small thing but when someone does want a hug it is really helpful knowing there is someone who is willing to give them that safe physical contact. Or even a virtual hug can be effective. I know that for me knowing I have someone who will always offer me a hug whether it physical or virtual has been a great comfort and made me feel less alone.
Another small thing that can make a difference is hearing the words “I’ll be here for you”. Again they helped me to feel less alone and with mental illness that makes a huge difference. Finding other people who have been through the same thing can also make a difference. Mental illness can be a lonely place so anything that helps reduce the feeling of loneliness is great.
Small things that can make a huge difference in a conversation about mental health include what I already have mentioned but also things that I wish people wouldn’t do. Not doing some small things can be as helpful.
When I was opening up about my mental health these are a few small things I wish people hadn’t done. Number one is saying that other people have it worse. That one small phrase can make a huge difference to a person and omitting it will help a person to feel that they can be open with you. Quite often the person who is talking is aware that some people are a lot worse off than them but their struggles are still real and can feel overwhelming a lot of the time. So please just think before you speak.
Number two was watching over me all the time. Giving someone the space and the choice to be open makes a huge difference. Knowing that someone was there for me was great but I also found myself feeling pushed to talk once I’d started to open up and this held me back. I wish that I’d had the space to be myself as well as someone with a mental health problem. I wish I’d had the choice to talk rather than have it forced out of me in all one go. That one small thing would have made a huge difference.
Overall my advice if you are thinking of helping someone to open up about their mental health is to never underestimate the power the small things can have either positively or negatively. In my opinion the small things make the biggest difference and are much more useful than grand gestures. A smile, a hug or even the offer of a catch up over a cup of tea can be one of the most helpful things you can do.