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Talking About Mental Health

Written by Grace Huang

With the busy school year and upcoming holidays, we may be feeling a whole range of emotions, from sadness to irritation. It’s important to normalize these feelings and be aware of any friends and/or family members who may be experiencing mental health challenges.

It can feel awkward to talk about mental health, but sometimes, that’s what makes it ever so important to talk about. Many may feel a stigma when it comes to mental health, and talking about mental health can not only help one begin to feel better, but also encourage others to share their mental health challenges.

Noticing a Problem

If you notice a friend or family member not seeming themselves lately, it’s a good idea to check in on them. Some emotions and behaviors to look out for may include:

  • Severe sadness

  • Mood swings

  • Withdrawal from friends and activities

  • Changes in sleep or appetite

  • Difficulty concentrating

Checking in with Others

Reaching out can be essential in helping others feel supported, even if it feels awkward at first. Let the person know that you are there for them and care for their well-being. Here are some tips on how to get started.

  • Start with a flexible but supportive approach. Dr. Greenwald, a psychiatrist at Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group, advises mentioning, for example, “Maybe it’s just me, but you’ve seemed more down than usual. If you ever want to talk about it, I’m here.” Keep in mind that not everyone is comfortable with sharing their mental health struggles, so make sure to respect their boundaries.

  • Listen. If they feel comfortable with sharing, let them finish their thoughts without interrupting them. Show them that you care and are taking them serio