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#ThePowerOfMay – Part 2

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“MAY I Speak with You about Mental Health? MAY I Help You?”

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

In this second installment of our #ThePowerOfMay series, let’s first recap last week’s recommendation. In a nutshell, we suggested we MAY need to be clearer about your #MentalHealth, even among close family and friends, but especially in mixed company, in order to create an environment where #MentalIllness is easily recognized and taken seriously.

This week, we’d like to discuss the ideal way in which one would address a concern regarding someone’s behavior; no matter whether the behavior be flippant toward mental health or symptomatic of actual mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders, the approach is the same.

Those who disregard the seriousness of mental health issues, purposefully or otherwise, should be held accountable; while, those who exhibit warning signs for mental health issues, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, should be properly understood. Either way, the goal is to be compassionate.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has a quote on their “Patients and Families” page that sets the framework for conversing about mental health – “Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a medical problem, just like heart disease or diabetes.” The image below frames mental health conversations similarly, but a bit more aggressively…

Source unknown, but a powerful message.

In other words, what those messages are basically saying is, “Don’t shame or dismiss those with mental illnesses.” Despite the directness of these messages, for one reason or another, not everyone has received them loud and clear. But we shouldn’t shame or dismiss these people either.

In this post, we’re going to suggest a simple way to start a conversation with someone about mental health that is more personal than the APA’s quote and less aggressive than the quote in the image above. As with part one in this series, we’re going to ask you to consider using the word “May,” which will help in avoiding the word often taken harshly – “YOU”.

Let’s say you’re on a crowded plane and a particular passenger is jokingly saying they’re “…going to loss it, just so they can go viral, if the line doesn’t move soon.” Rather than “confront” the individual in a virtuous stand for “Hashtag Mental Health,” try politely, yet playfully, asking them, “MAY I speak to you about mental health…if we ever do get off this plane?”

Or let’s say you’re working alongside a coworker who’s being uncharacteristically irritable. Maybe they’ve huffed and turned away mid-conversation a few times throughout the day. Instead of blurting out, “What’s wrong with you,” or even gently asking, “Is something wrong,” try asking, “MAY I help you in any way to make your day easier?”

You don’t even need to know the situation. The body language makes it almost undeniable her sentence is starting with an accusatory “YOU”.

In both instances, you’re approaching the individuals with compassion, understanding that we come from all walks of life and experience all types of trauma. In the first instance, the goal is to help the person understand recent cases of “viral meltdowns” probably weren’t controllable. In the second instance, the goal is to offer de-stress and not further distress by digging up details. At no point did we make a “YOU” accusation.

While we certainly aren’t diminishing the importance of the first scenario, the second is really the one to focus on here. Even as a bystander, you can #BeTheDifference in someone’s mental wellness. While scenarios can vary greatly, there are common warning signs and actionable steps we should all commit to memory, just as we would for cardiac arrests and CPR training.

In case you didn’t click the last link, there is such a thing as “CPR for the mind” – Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). As with CPR, you’re not trained to diagnose and/or treat those in need. Instead (as it says on the MHFA website), the training teaches people how to offer initial support until appropriate professional help is received or until the crisis resolves.

Would you like to better prepared in a mental health crisis by getting certified in this critical discipline? We can help. We’ve trained over 4000 people so far and would be happy to include you in the next round. If you are in the North Central Florida area, like and follow our Facebook page for updates on course offerings. If not, look here for courses in your area.

Well, that will do it for this week’s “WellnessWednesday” post. While the advise we’re giving here isn’t guaranteed to work in all instances, considering #ThePowerOfMay when beginning conversations surrounding mental health is at least a better place to start than doing nothing at all, or worse, shaming and/or dismissing.

Part 2’s Instagramable recap – feel free to snip and share

To learn more about Meridian’s services, please contact 352-374-5600 and follow the prompts – we do have a 24/7 crisis line; just dial option 1. For general inquiries, you can also send us a message on our “Contact Us” page. Thank you for reading. Please share and be on the lookout for Part 3 in this #ThePowerOfMay series next Wednesday! Take care.

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