4 ways to be there for others this Brew Monday
We're fighting the Jan blues with a brew. Our Mental Health First Aider shares 4 ways to check in and ask R U OK?
The third Monday in January. Often known as the most difficult day of the year or 'Blue Monday'.
Although, this is actually somewhat of a myth. Originated by psychologist Cliff Arnall in 2004, who came up with it after a holiday company asked him for a "scientific formula" for the January blues.
Fighting the blues with a brew
We do know that January can still be a tough month for many of us, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed at this time of year.
That's why this ‘Brew Monday’, we’re putting the kettle on and making time for a blether and a cuppa to start the week right. Thanks to our fantastic Mental Health First Aiders, we even got a breakfast butty too!
How to ask R U OK?
What is ALEC?
ALEC is a practical and accessible way to have conversations which can help the people in our lives during difficult times:
- 💬 Ask
- 👂 Listen
- 🌈 Encourage
- 🙋 Check-in
The first two letters focus on building understanding and empathy for what someone is going through. This is essential in helping others open up about their mental health - as we know although there’s been strides in normalising it, it’s still a stigmatised topic.
This is why we're focusing in on 'Ask' and 'Listen' today 👇
Ask – Taking notice
Asking if someone is ok and wants to chat can be daunting. We may be unsure of how to motivate them to open up, or what to say next.
Judging when is good time and place to for the other person to feel safe to talk is key. Remembering it’s not necessarily about saying the 'right things', but more so about showing genuine care.
Bringing up changes you’ve noticed in someone’s behaviour or relations with others suggests you’re invested in that person’s wellbeing, and might motivate them to open up more.
Taking notice isn’t something you can only do before having a conversation.
Being mindful of someones body language and tone while you’re talking could guide what you’re focusing the discussion on. Noticing these cues will make others feel listened to, and more likely to share what’s on their mind.
Ask – Finding what they value and common ground
Another way to build on the conversation is talking about things the other person deeply cares about.
Sharing similar experiences of when you struggled with your mental health might help the other person open up more about what they’re going through.
Bringing up your experiences shows vulnerability, which reduces the perceived power imbalance between someone needing support and the person who offers it.
Listen – Respecting their trust
One of the biggest barriers for someone to open up about struggling with their mental health is wondering how much they can trust whoever they’re talking with, and whether they’ll be judged.
Trying to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes by saying we appreciate why they feel the way they do, goes a long way in creating empathy. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t gone through the exact same thing, everyone is different.
This, alongside telling them you value them having shared something that is difficult to talk about, validates people’s experiences.
Listen – Showing understanding
When someone is telling us about what they’re struggling with, it’s natural to want to help by finding a “fix”. However, it’s vital to listen to understand rather than to immediately offer solutions.
Many who are going through a difficult time with their mental health want to first and foremost feel understood, and be reassured that there’s people willing and able to help should they need it. Demonstrating that we’re keen to understand where people are coming from by reflecting back what we’ve heard, and asking clarification questions, underlines that we’re there for them as people, and not to deal with and get rid of a problem.
To best encourage those who could be struggling with their mental health to open up, show genuine care in their wellbeing by:
Mentioning changes in them you’ve noticed
Focusing on what’s most valuable to them
Keeping assumptions in check and empathising
Letting them know you’re there to listen and keen to understand their situation
Remember it’s not necessarily about saying the 'right things', but about showing genuine care.