Big Chats - A workshop on how to have tough conversations

When you notice a mate is struggling, how would you bring it up with them?

Big Chats - A workshop on how to have tough conversations
Big Chats - A workshop on how to have tough conversations
March 9, 2023
Journal entry

When you notice a mate is struggling, how would you bring it up with them?

Having conversations about mental health can be difficult, especially when it comes to those closest to us. However, it's important to have these conversations to support those who may be struggling and to normalise discussions around mental health.

Elle Cradwick and Hayley from Big Chats are helping people through this by providing tools to help us be there for others in tough times. This is a necessity to have in our tool box when helping individuals at an informal community care level.

The Lads team are grateful that we got to spend a day learning about and unpacking:

  • What actually is mental health?
  • Investing in our own wellbeing
  • What to look out for with people struggling
  • How to start a tough conversation
  • The importance of active listening, validation and silence 
  • Steps for speaking to someone thinking about suicide

This workshop was a really valuable time for our team to sit with one another and reflect on some of those moments with our own friends and whānau where we didn't always know what to say, were scared to say the wrong thing or hadn't quite known what to look out for. And although we still might not get things right or fumble on our words, we were reminded on the importance of checking in anyway and the kinds of steps we can follow to ensure someone can get the support they need.

Here's some of our key takeaways and quick tips for having tough chats with your mates:

  1. Approach mental health conversations with empathy and without judgement. It's important to remember that mental health struggles are common and not a personal failing. Let the person know that you care about them and that you're there to support them.
  1. Choose an appropriate time and place for the conversation. It's important to have the conversation in a private space where the person feels comfortable and safe. 
  1. Be an active listener. Give the person your full attention and avoid interrupting or making assumptions. Validate their feelings and let them know that it's okay to feel the way they do.
  1. Use "I" statements instead of "you" statements. For example, say "I've noticed that you seem really stressed lately" instead of "You've been acting really stressed lately". This can help the person feel less defensive and more open to the conversation.
  1. Connect them with resources and more support. If the person is open to it, refer to the appropriate support and resources such as a mental health organisation, student care or even just a loved one. Let them know that you're there to support them in any way you can.

Reach out. If the conversation turns towards more serious topics of self-harm or suicide, be direct and ask the person if they are thinking about suicide and if they have a plan. It won't put the idea in their head and more than anything it shows them you see them, you're worried and most of all you really care.

If they do have a plan, it's important to take immediate action and seek professional help.

For urgent mental health support, phone Crisis Resolution 0800 920 092 or Lifeline 0800 543 354

For more information on the Big Chats workshop