As a practicing psychologist, a pattern I have seen a hopeful yet the upsetting trend is that once my clients start seeing that therapy is working for them and it could help people around them as well; they say that we know people (friends, family, acquaintances) who could benefit from therapy, but I still don’t know how to talk to them.
Let me elaborate upon what’s happening. People deserve and need mental health support but there aren’t enough (qualified) mental health practitioners. When I say qualified, I mean someone holding at least an M.A in Psychology.
Therapy is the need of the hour
Research has shown that every one in five people need therapy or support for mental health. And this situation has only gotten worse since the corvid -19 pandemic.
According to a publication in the International Journal of Psychiatry psychological stress, distress, and poor sleep were faced by the general population and covid caregivers alike. In another survey of approximately 2000 people, 40.5% of the people said that they were facing anxiety or depression symptoms.
This is not to say that Covid gave rise to the mental health crises in India. The WHO had named India the most depressed country in the world in a 2018-2019 survey. Further, there is a great mental health gap in India. There are only 3 psychiatrists in India for every 100000 people.
However, there is an even bigger problem that only conversations can fix and that is the attitude toward mental health. The concern is the fear of judgment. Research has shown that 40% of people still fear persons with mental illness and those who make the fact that they seek therapy public.
How do we then start a conversation with therapy?
A few things to keep in mind while trying to talk to someone about therapy are :-
- Be Gentle : Offer your support on their journey. Show that you see that there are things that they need to work through and you are going to be there for them.
- Mind the time and place for the conversation: Talking to someone about mental health still invites fear & judgement. Make sure you find a private and safe place for the conversation. In other words, don’t speak to people about their mental health where they may feel vulnerable in front of people .
- Talk about facts, not feelings: Show that you are initiating a conversation because you want to support them. Say things like I think you should consider therapy because I see you struggling. Share actual instances of where therapy could help. For instance, You could share that they seemed excessively worried about work lately. Showing evidence makes it easier to get through. Talking in terms of feelings could put the person in a state of avoidance to a point that they shut you out. For instance, someone might say, oh great, you think I am crazy too.
- Ensure confidentiality: one of the most common myths about therapy is that it is just like talking to your friends or family. Explain that talking to a therapist is different. While talking to friends and family might feel scary about what they might say or think. Further, their response would always be coloured with emotions because of the relationship. Therapists on the other hand are trained to be non-judgemental, objective and equip you with skills to manage your difficulties.
5.Share your Story: you are in therapy, share your story. Talk about how therapy has helped you, highlight that it was safe, non-judgemental, and confidential. Sharing your personal story not only destigmatizes therapy but also makes it easier to approach. If you can do it, they can too.
6. Don’t force them: At the end of the day, therapy is not something people should be forced into. Even if they do start therapy because you send them, they will not stick with it and put in the work that therapy requires.
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