Stevie Wonder said it best in his song:
" These three words Sweet and simple These three words Short and kind These three words Always kindles An aching heart to smile inside."
It's true, most of us greet each other with this familiar phrase. These three words have become common; always with the same reoccurring answer, however, in a world where 1 in 5 people experience a mental health challenge, we need to take these words a little more seriously. Once asked we need to be more prepared to actively listen with a open heart and mind and if you happen to be on the responding end of the question, let us all be more honest with our answers.
In general, we all want the best for each other. We want to live and interact in a world with others who are mostly happy, but it is inevitable that we will experience some bad days. However, when we recognize situations in the lives of our loved ones, co-workers, students or neighbors that begin to effect their well-being and their ability to live, laugh or love then there lies a problem.
Starting a conversation can be hard and nerve wrecking but these conversation starters will give you the confidence to know what to say if you notice the above warning signs. You see, persons dealing with mental health challenges are often looking for someone to tell their story to. Believe or not they want you to ask! But don't just ask, ask with true concern and then listen. Be an active listener by providing eye contact, open body language and a silent mouth.
Additional tips to being an active listener include:
•Be genuine and respectful
•Be comfortable with silence
•Be in the present with them without comparing your own situations
•Be aware that the person’s feelings are very real
•Be accepting even though you may not agree
•Be aware of your body language and facial expressions
•Be positive with your feedback
•Be helpful with language without telling them how they feel or “should” feel
Now, that the box has been opened, Be prepared to provide additional support:
1. Suggest speaking to a licensed mental health practitioner (life coach, therapist)
2. Call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255
Remember, three words, while short and simple can kindle an aching heart to smile inside.