Time to Talk Day 2019: ‘It’s time to listen, too’ says Paul

Paul Harris has given his thoughts on Time to Talk Day 2019. Picture: Courtesy of Paul Harris

Paul Harris has given his thoughts on Time to Talk Day 2019. Picture: Courtesy of Paul Harris - Credit: Archant

Paul Harris, who has battled with anxiety, panic and depression since September 2015, gives his thoughts on Time to Talk Day 2019.

A friend or relative starts talking to you about their mental health and problems they are having; what do you do? You Listen.

It sounds simple, but there is an art to listening. Our natural reaction is to help or try to fix a problem and that can make things worse.

A good listener will give their full attention. You can’t do this if you are busy, somewhere noisy, or you will get distracted. There is nothing wrong in telling someone that it is not a good time to talk, just make sure you explain why, and arrange a time so you can give them your full attention.

Before you start, ask them what they want you to do or how they want you to respond, do they want you to make suggestions or just listen?

When it comes to listening, make sure you do just that however, don’t be afraid to ask questions as this will help you understand and be clearer on what you are being told. What they are saying may sound trivial or illogical to you, but it is obviously enough to cause them serious distress.

Try to make sure that you do not filter the information through your own biases, in other words try not to let your thoughts or opinions influence your opinion or the help you do give. Someone is talking to you about how THEY are feeling; we are all different, our lives have been moulded by our own unique experiences.

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Keep in touch, just a simple message asking ‘how are you feeling today?’ can make all the difference. I have a friend in South Africa who sends me photographs of Cape Town and his family, and they always make me feel good.

Don’t worry if you can’t help. I personally find communicating with people very difficult, but I know that certain people are always there for me – and that makes all the difference.

The mental health charity Mind has some great information on how to help and support someone with a mental health problem at www.mind.org.uk. You can also contact your local Mind office to ask for advice.

For more from Paul, who lives in Henlow, visit andbreatheblog.com.