Our #AlrightPal? campaign is all about starting the conversation around mental health and wellbeing as a first step towards suicide prevention.
Talking about mental health doesn't have to be scary; it's simply our emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. It's really important to understand and manage it as it affects how we think, feel, and act.
It’s a myth that talking about suicide is a bad idea as it will give somebody the idea to do it. In reality, people at crisis point often feel as though they don’t want to burden people with their problems, so they don’t discuss it. Asking somebody a simple question to check they’re alright offers support from friends and family, and an opportunity for early referrals for specialist help.
If you’re worried about someone who might be experiencing mental health issues or suicidal thoughts, there’s lots you can do to help. Read our tips below for how to start a conversation where you can find lots of advice and information about partner services that can help.
How to help
Simply asking somebody if they’re alright gives them the opportunity to open up. Here are some simple things to remember:
Show you care
Focus on the other person, make eye contact, put away your phone.
To really listen to somebody, you need to give them your full attention, maintain eye contact and be engaged.
Getting into this habit takes practice so don’t be too hard on yourself and keep using these handy tips:
When starting the conversation resolve not to talk about yourself at all.
Keep a listening diary - just for a week. Record how many times you listened really well, note what challenges and distracts you and what you think went well.
Aim to learn at least one new thing about the person who is talking to you.
It may take time and several attempts before a person is ready to open up.
Effective listening is about creating trust with the other person. The person sharing shouldn’t feel rushed, or they won’t feel it’s a safe environment.
If they've paused in their response, wait, they may not have finished speaking. It might take them some time to formulate what they are saying, or they may find it difficult to articulate what they're feeling.
Through non-judgemental listening, you are allowing the person to relax into the conversation and to use it as a place to reflect or work through difficult emotions.
Use open questions
Use open questions that need more than a yes/no answer, and follow up with questions like 'Tell me more'.
An open-ended question means not jumping in with your own ideas about how the other person may be feeling.
These questions don't impose a view point and require a person to pause, think and reflect, and then hopefully expand.
Avoid asking questions or saying something that closes down the conversation. Open-ended questions encourage them to talk, the conversation is a safe space that you are holding for them and nothing they say is right or wrong. Try asking, 'how are you feeling today?
Say it back
Check you’ve understood, but don’t interrupt or offer a solution.
Repeating something back to somebody is a really good way to reassure them that they have your undivided attention. And you can check to see that you’re hearing what they want you to hear, not putting your own interpretation onto the conversation.
Don’t be put off by a negative response and, most importantly, don’t feel you have to fill a silence.
Sometimes it can feel intrusive and counter-intuitive to ask someone how they feel. You’ll soon be able to tell if someone is uncomfortable and doesn’t want to engage with you at that level.
You'll be surprised at how willing people are to listen and how, sometimes, it is exactly what somebody needs to be able to share what is going on their mind.
Where to get help
If someone is still feeling low after your conversation, and if they may be struggling to cope, it's probably a good idea that they get some support, whether it is through talking to someone like a counsellor or getting specific advice for their situation.
Useful questions you might ask them include
- Have you talked to anyone else about this?
- Would you like to get some help?
- Would you like me to come with you?
Or, for someone who is reluctant to get help
- Do you have someone you trust you can go to?
- If it helps, you can talk to me any time.
When somebody does open up to you: Listen, take them seriously, offer reassurance and advise them to speak to their GP. #AlrightPal?
Looking after our own mental health
We all have mental health, just like we have physical health and it’s important that we take steps to look after it. The following steps, known as the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’, are easy and can be incorporated into our daily lives almost straight away.
1. Be Active
Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and it doesn’t have to be intense to make a difference. Do as much or as little as you can – you could try walking, dancing, running, cycling or gardening. For ideas, see our Sport and Leisure pages.
People who are connected with family, friends or people living in their community are generally happier, healthier, live longer and have fewer mental health problems. To connect with others, you could join a group, help a friend, family member or colleague or try volunteering. For ideas, see Live Well Barnsley.
It has been proven that people who offer an act of kindness once a week over a six-week period report an improvement in their wellbeing. Giving could be smiling at someone and saying thank you. It could be volunteering within the local community or doing something nice for a colleague or friend. You can also find a range of volunteering opportunities with us and our partners.
4. Keep Learning
People should never stop learning. Learning throughout life enhances self-esteem, increases confidence, encourages social interaction and generally leads to people having a more active life. Why not learn a new skill like cooking, playing an instrument, fixing a bike, photography or painting. Our Adult Learning courses cover a range of interests. You might also find something to interest you on Live Well Barnsley.
5. Take Notice
Life can be very busy with little time to stop and reflect. Studies have shown that when people are aware of what is taking place in the present it directly enhances wellbeing. People worry less about the future and what has happened in the past and can see what really matters, allowing them to make positive choices. Stopping and observing, spending time with friends and family, enjoying nature, and taking a different route home from work or the shops noticing what is different are all ways to take notice. Our museums and galleries are free and provide the perfect spaces to take time out and reflect.
Supporting someone in distress can be difficult in itself. If you're helping someone who feels suicidal, make sure you take care of yourself as well.
If you need to talk about how you are feeling, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123, or email them whenever you need.
Mental Health support in Barnsley
Local support services in Barnsley
The Recovery College, also known as 'The Exchange' on Gawber Road, Barnsley offers a variety of informal courses that are run in small groups and are open to anyone.
Making Space is an independent organisation that supports carers and families of people with a mental health problem.
MIND is a national charity for people with mental health problems with a branch in Barnsley. They offer counselling, support groups and help to get back into work.
Together for Mental Wellbeing is an independent organisation offering services including support groups, drop-ins and individual counselling. They can sometimes provide a regular support worker, to help people to socialise and manage daily affairs.
Creative Recovery is an arts based charity offering creative activities to support mental well-being.
Take a look at the Samaritans comprehensive list of organisations that provide emotional support and help for specific situations (from mental health issues to addiction, and domestic abuse).
If someone is in immediate danger call 999 and ask for an ambulance. Add to the bottom of the section.
Humankind is Barnsley’s provider for early intervention and prevention service, providing holistic support to people in the Barnsley area with mental health difficulties.
Encourage them to visit and talk to a GP, see MIND UK’s advice for ‘what might happen when I talk to my doctor?’
NHS 111 offers health advice and is free from landlines and mobiles.