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BECOME A MENTAL HEALTH CHAMPION

In order to build a community where Mental Health Matters, each of us has an important role to play. We can accomplish this by tending to our own mental health, supporting others around us, and actively building environments that promote mental health wherever we go.

Take the pledge today to become a Mental Health Champion!

HOW CAN I HELP A LOVED ONE WHO MIGHT BE STRUGGLING?

How to Check In About Mental Health

The following are just a few ways to support your loved one. To learn more, call the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health Access Hotline at 1-800-854-7771. 

If you think your loved one might hurt themself or others, call 988 or 911.  

If you don’t know where to start, here are some gentle questions you can ask a loved one who might be struggling: 

  • How are you feeling today, really? Physically and mentally. 
  • What’s been on your mind the most lately? 
  • When’s the last time you had a full meal or drank some water?  
  • How have you been sleeping? 
  • What is something you can do today that would make you feel good? 
  • How can I help support you? 
  • What’s something we can do together this week, even if we’re apart?

Things to Consider

Remember they are human first. 

Different feelings and emotions may come up throughout your conversation, such as anger, sadness, and confusion. It can be uncomfortable and scary for someone to share openly about their mental health, especially if they have not talked about it with anyone else. Welcome the speaker to the conversation as they are and be patient with them while they express themselves.  

Practice active listening.  

Active listening is different than just hearing what a person has to say. Before starting a conversation, make sure you have the time and space to give your complete attention to the person who is talking (e.g., avoid trying to multi-task). 

Let the other person know you are paying attention and understand what they are sharing. One way to do this is by asking more questions, which can help you understand the situation. Using nonverbal communication cues, like nodding your head to show you understand, also shows that you are following them. 

After the other person shares their thoughts, you can thank the person for sharing and ask if they’re looking for someone to share their feelings with or help with problem-solving.  

Validate and affirm their experience. Keep the focus on them. 

When someone shares their experience with you, take them seriously and validate what they are saying. “Validation” is simply acknowledging someone else’s thoughts and feelings from their own perspective. It does not mean that you agree with everything they are sharing or that you would have a similar response in this situation.  

Some examples of validating statements are: 

  • “I understand that you are angry right now, that must be difficult.” 
  • “This seems like a very stressful situation for you.” 
  • “I can understand that this is very important to you.” 

Keep your focus on the speaker's viewpoint of their situation. Instead of bringing in your own experiences or comparing them, try to restate what you have gathered from what they are saying without expressing your own opinion or giving advice. 

Do not respond with statements that minimize how the other person is feeling or what they are going through, such as, “You’re just having a bad week,” or “I’m sure it’s nothing.” This may make it difficult for them to continue to conversation. 

Be open-minded. Practice non-judgement.  

Remember, your focus is trying to understand the situation from the other person’s viewpoint, and criticism is not helpful in this moment. To be supportive of someone, put your personal opinions aside.  

Each mental health condition, like all health conditions, has its own set of traits and behaviors. For instance, a person with anxiety may have difficulty focusing, or feel tired and having a hard time relaxing; those things may lead to being easily angered or annoyed. Someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have a hard time staying in the present moment; they may feel confused and afraid by flashbacks and have some memory loss. 

An important part of being supportive is understanding how mental health conditions may affect someone. It’s okay if you don’t fully understand what they’re sharing or what they’re doing. It may be helpful to learn more about the information you've been told. Make sure that your information is coming from reliable sources, like the National Alliance of Mental Health and SAMHSA. 

Ask how you can support them. 

Everyone has different ways of feeling supported by others. It’s always better to ask them what kind of support they need first – whether it’s providing space to share their feeling, sharing words of support and understanding, thinking together on possible solutions, or helping with an act of service (see list below). 

Sometimes it can be difficult to accept support from others or to know what support looks like. This may lead them so say something like, “nothing, I’m fine.” You can offer up a few suggestions for things you would be willing to do. 

For instance, you could offer to go with someone to help them take care of responsibilities like: 

  • Walking their dog 
  • Going to the grocery store 
  • Helping them clean around their home 
  • Bringing them food 
  • Offering to watch their kids or the family member they care for
  • Simply spending time together 
  • Let them know you’ll be there for them again. 

It can be a big relief for someone to share what they’ve been thinking about, however, mental health struggles do not usually get better with one conversation – it's an ongoing process. Let the person know they can reach out to you again if they are having a tough time or want to talk again. It’s okay to let them know when there are certain times or days that you aren’t available. 

Be patient. 

There are times when someone’s mental health can be more difficult for them to manage than others. There is no timetable for when someone “should” feel better. Everyone’s journey and relationship with their mental health are different.   

Someone struggling with their mental health may need some time before they feel ready to share with others about what they’re experiencing. It may also take some time for them to consider seeking additional support, such as therapy or social support groups. There are many factors that influence these decisions. 

While mental health stigma can be a big barrier, it is not the only one. Additional factors like language and cultural differences, the cost of mental health services, transportation to appointments, and the time it takes to receive services can also make it difficult for people to get the support they need. 

Be patient with them. Whether or not they feel ready to share their process with others, remind them that you care about them and will support them in the ways you can.

Know when more help is needed. 

You are one person and one source of support, and it can often take a community and professional help to help people who are struggling with mental health.  

Don’t be afraid to encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional and offer to help them find a provider if needed. 

To learn more, call the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health Access Hotline at 1-800-854-7771. 

Check-in with yourself. 

Your mental health is important too!   

Checking-in with others can take up a lot of energy and may even bring up experiences or feelings around your own mental health. It can be easy to take on other people’s experiences as your own, which can cause you to feel worried or anxious or remind you of something that you have lived through that can lead to feeling unsafe.  

Remember that it is okay to reach out to others and that you are deserving of support and care. 

You can check-in with yourself with the guided questions and ask others to help check-in with you. Our moods, thoughts, bodies and behaviors all have ways of telling us our mental health could use some help. Sometimes we are so used to experiencing these symptoms that we don’t realize it could be related to our mental health.

Take a moment to check in with yourself.
Below are a few lists that describe different factors that affect our mental health, and signs of mental health struggles. You do not need to experience everything on this list in order to reach out for help.

HOW DO I CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS ARE RESPECTED AND RESPONDED TO?

Our mental health is not limited to our personal lives and our mental health challenges don’t disappear when we go to places, like school or work. Sometimes, these environments are the cause of our stress or add to it. Making these environments supportive and responsive to mental health can play an important role in creating a community where Mental Health Matters. 

IN THE WORKPLACE 

Mental health can be influenced by the workplace, and sometimes stress can be caused by or increased by stressful and/or unsupportive work environments. Positive and supportive workplaces practices can promote the physical and mental health of employees, as well as company morale which can increase retention. These are a few ways that can help make your workplace more responsive and affirming for mental health.  

Train your managers and supervisors to promote mental health and well-being

Managers and supervisors can play an important role in implementing and sustaining the policies and procedures that help create an environment that is supportive to mental health. 

Providing mental health awareness training for supervisors and managers can give them skills that help them recognize and respond to the signs of stress and mental health in employees. Educating supervisors and managers in respecting the life-work balance also serves as a reminder that employees are whole people with complex lives, which they bring parts of into work with them. Respecting this balance helps employees better manage their work and life responsibilities, as well as improve their job performance and satisfaction. 

Additionally, managers and supervisors can also help employees understand the resources available to them for mental health and how to access them. 

Increase employees’ options for when, where, and how they work 

Flexibility in when, where, and how employees work can help the mental health of employees.  Virtual or hybrid work can provide flexibility for people with caregiving responsibilities, bypass location bias, and even facilitate opportunities for employees of all levels to share ideas by taking meetings out of the often-intimidating conference room setting. 

But virtual and hybrid work may not be the solution for everyone, depending on the kind of work that is being done. Similarly, flexible work schedules may be important for some but not all employees or may be important to a particular employee at one point in time but not at another point in time. 

The key is to allow employees the agency to choose options that balance the needs of their work and their personal circumstances. 

Reexamine health insurance policies with a focus on employee mental health 

If your business or organization offers health insurance benefits, reexamine whether they include resources and care for mental health that are comparable to physical health coverage. Be sure that the mental health benefits and resources you offer are easy to find, understandable, and support employees across the different types of mental health needs (e.g., mental health, behavioral health, and recovery from substance use). 

Additionally, consider expanding this coverage to remove barriers employees may encounter when seeking support for mental health. For example, choose a plan with out-of-network mental health benefits so employees can access service providers who may not be partnered with your in-network providers. 

Listen to what your employees need and use their feedback to evolve

The best way to know what your employees need is to provide opportunities for them to tell you. You can use tools like surveys, suggestion boxes, or focus groups to gather anonymous feedback. When the feedback is collected and reviewed, share the results with all employees in an open and honest way and develop an action plan to address the areas of growth. Communicate with the employees about how you will use that feedback to inform your decisions as you shift towards making the workplace a more responsive and affirming environment for mental health.

Take a critical look at equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) policies 

Every staff member of your business/organization brings in their own identities and backgrounds into work with them. Creating a work environment that is inclusive and equitable is important in fostering a sense of belonging and safety, which promotes the mental health of employees. 

Evaluate your company policies and programs to ensure best and current practices around EDI, including supporting [BIPoC], LGBTQ+ populations and people with disabilities. 

A welcoming and safe workplace builds trust between leadership and employees, contributes to job satisfaction, and helps reduce job-related stress. Commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion while supporting employees can look like:  

  • Being intentional and consistent with using inclusive language.   

  • Recognizing and respecting the diverse backgrounds and identities of staff members.  

  • Regularly reviewing your organization’s hiring practices and ensure equitable pay. 

  • Considering conducting an audit of your organization’s ongoing EDI work to identify gaps in any EDI policies identify opportunities for growth and improvement. 

IN EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENTS 

Educational environments offer a unique opportunity for to notice mental health concerns early on, preventing the progression of these concerns and intervening to support students where they already are. These environments also play an important role in providing and connecting students with resources in the community. 

K-12 Institutions 

  • Increase awareness of on-campus supports (e.g., school-based health centers, School Social Workers).  

  • Learn how to recognize signs of changes in mental and physical health among students, including trauma and behavior changes. 

  • Educate students and families of mental health symptoms and how to access support. 

  • Make time for activities that promote calming, stress reduction, and mental and physical wellness (e.g., mindfulness activities, drawing,). 

  • Create spaces within the classroom for students to go to relax, regroup, and process emotions.  

  • Seek feedback and suggestions from children on how to create a welcoming, safe and comfortable classroom 

Colleges & Universities 

  • Increase awareness of on-campus supports (e.g., health center, counseling services, emergency housing, food pantries).  

  • Provide students with information about on-campus resources (e.g., making announcements, including it in the syllabus, bringing in presenters) 

  • Learn how to recognize signs of changes in mental and physical health among students, including trauma and behavior changes.  

  • Check in with students about how they are doing, if you have concerns or notice changes in their behavior. 

  • Seek feedback and suggestions from students on how to create a safe and affirming environment for mental health.