How to check in on someone during the pandemic

With the initial novelty of Zoom quizzes and catch ups wearing off now we’re in our third lockdown, it can easy to forget to check in on those around you.

So this year, the message behind Time to Talk Day, which falls today, is ‘The Power of Small’.

Time to Talk Day was established eight years ago in recognition of the fact that people talking and sharing their experiences positively changes the attitudes of those around them.

This year’s theme aims to showcase the big difference even seemingly small conversations or gestures can make to someone’s mental health, particularly at this difficult time.

It doesn’t have to be a Zoom

You don’t need to organise a whole evening of virtual activities together – it can be just a quick reminder to a colleague, friend or family member that they aren’t alone during this difficult time.

Jo Loughran, Director of Time to Change, the mental health anti-stigma campaign run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, explains: ‘Many of us spend all day on video calls at the moment and it can be quite intense being in that situation one-on-one.

‘Try sending a text, a meme, a funny video, or an old fashioned call! However, you do it, reaching out shows that you are there and ready to talk when that person’s ready.’

Ask twice

If you are worried about someone, remember that small talk, especially after a period of feeling a little distant from eachother, might not encourage them to open up.

Jo adds: ‘Research shows that ‘How are you?’ can often prompt no more than a meaningless exchange.

‘The simple act of asking again, with interest, shows a genuine willingness to talk and listen. If you’re worried about someone, the next time they say they’re fine, try asking “How are you really?” or “Are you sure you’re ok?”

Reassure them you understand

Times are tough for everyone right now and you can use that to introduce the conversation, while still reassuring them that their feelings are valid.

Jo says: ‘The last year has been tough on everyone’s mental health. Addressing this fact might be easier than asking direct questions about their feelings.

‘For example, saying “Lockdown can be quite difficult, can’t it?”

You don’t have to fix everything – often just chatting things through and listening can help.

Use open questions

If someone does mention they’re having a bad week, don’t dismiss it.

Talk to them to see if they’re just a little fed up with lockdown or feeling something more.

Jo says: ‘Dig deeper and ask questions – it might help someone to get things off their chest, and it shows that you care.

‘Some of the questions you might ask are: “What is it that you are finding hard at the moment?” “What kind of thoughts are you having?” and “How can I help?”‘

Be safe

Restrictions do allow for you to meet up with one other person for daily exercise, while maintaining social distance.

Jo says that if possible and safe, talking side-by-side like this can make it easier, particularly as you are doing something while chatting.

To talk about mental health in an open, judgement-free space, join Metro.co.uk’s Facebook group, Mentally Yours.

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