January can be a difficult month for many people, with cold weather and shorter days bringing feelings of anxiety, sadness and depression, especially after the festive period which can be challenging for some. It is no wonder that the term ‘January blues’ exists.
At this time of year, it’s more important than ever to talk more with family and friends and share how you’re feeling.
Cllr Adam Dance, Executive Lead Member for Public Health, Equalities and Diversity said:
“January can be tough on our wellbeing, and that is without the additional pressure many of us are facing with the rising cost of living. It’s important that we all take some time to be kind to ourselves and look out for our loved ones too.
“This time of year is a good time to remind yourself of how you can be there for your loved ones and encourage open conversation about mental health to stop the stigma and offer support to those who may need it.”
Starting conversations that seem ‘deep’ or potentially emotional can be daunting for people, so Somerset’s Public Health team have shared five tips to help you get started.
1. Don’t wait to find the perfect moment
Sometimes it’s easier to talk about our feelings when we are doing something else, like walking around the park, at the dinner table, at the gym, or driving in the car. The more ‘normal’ the setting, the more comfortable the conversation can feel.
2. Ask Twice
We know people often say they’re fine when they’re not. So, asking twice is an important way of starting conversations about mental health and letting people know that you really are genuinely interested. When you ask “how are you?”, it’s important to follow up with “no, really, is everything OK?”. Even if someone doesn’t feel like talking at that moment, they know you’ll be there to listen when they’re ready.
3. Talk about yourself
If you want someone to open up to you it can help them to feel safe and understood if you share your own feelings. It can be as simple as sharing that you feel down sometimes or revealing something that has been worrying you. This will make it clear that you’re happy to talk about feelings without any judgement.
4. Approach the ‘elephant in the room’
If you know that someone has experienced mental illness – maybe they took some time off work recently, or spoke about it in the past – don’t be afraid to ask how they’re doing. You could ask “how are things now?” or “are you back at work?”.
If you think someone has been acting differently it’s OK to mention that too, if it is done in a kind and sensitive way. For example, “you have seemed a bit quiet recently, is everything alright? I’m here if you want to talk.” This shows that you care and opens the door for conversations to take place when they’re ready.
5. It doesn’t have to be face to face
Talking in person is great because it can help to see someone’s facial expressions, read their body language, and give them a hug if that feels right. However, some people find it easier to talk about things via text or email, and that’s fine too. If your main form of communication is a text, check in with them that way. All the above tips still apply online too and social media can be a brilliant way of keeping in touch with people. However, it’s important to remember that just because you’ve ‘liked’ a post or shared a funny video doesn’t mean you are truly connecting with that person. Taking the time to reach out can make a huge difference.
Save these numbers in your phone
If someone does disclose mental health concerns with you it helps to know where you can signpost them to for extra support should they need it. It might be helpful to have these numbers saved in your phone:
Mindline (Somerset’s 24/7 mental health helpline)01823 276 892, 0800 138 1692
Samaritans (national listening service) – 116 123
SHOUT – Free, 24/7 mental health text support in the UK – TEXT ‘SHOUT’ TO 85258