Last week was World Mental Health Awareness Week, a time to shine a light on mental illness and replace stigma with hope. At the Ranch, we spent the week sharing messages to fight stigma and to encourage people to get help. The discussion can't stop because Mental Health Awareness Week is over--so here are some things for you to think about.
One in five adults experiences a mental illness in any given year. Those problems can contribute to onset of more serious long-term conditions such as major depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Approximately one-half of chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14. Unfortunately, long delays—sometimes decades—often occur between the time symptoms first appear and when people get help.
Because mental illness is so prevalent, you likely to encounter people in your family or in your daily life who have a mental illness. If you are unsure how best to approach them, these tips may help.
- Find a quiet and comfortable space to talk where you won’t be interrupted or distracted.
- Ease into the conversation. They may not be in a place to talk, and that is OK. Greeting them and extending a gentle kindness can go a long way. Sometimes less is more.
- Speak in a relaxed and calm manner.
- Communicate in a straightforward manner and stick to one topic at a time.
- Be respectful, compassionate and empathetic to their feelings by engaging in reflective listening, such as “I hear that you are having a bad day today. Yes, some days are certainly more challenging than others. I understand.”
- Be a good listener, be responsive, and make eye contact.
- Give them the opportunity to talk and be open about their feelings, but don’t press.
- Reduce any defensiveness by sharing your feelings and looking for common ground.
- Speak at a level appropriate to their age and development level. Keep in mind that mental illness has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence.
- Show respect and understanding for how they describe and interpret their symptoms.
- Genuinely express your concern.
- Offer your support and connect them to help if you feel they need it. Ask, “How can I help?”
- Give them hope for recovery--assure them their intense feelings will not last forever.
- Offer your encouragement and prayers.
Thank you for taking the time to learn more about mental illness and for ongoing prayers and support for the children at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch.
Senior Development Officer
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Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is a Christian residential treatment and educational center for children and their families. We help the most troubled, complicated, and amazing kids by providing best-in-class psychiatric therapy and trauma-informed care, where we look kids in the eye, walk with them, and help them become their best selves.