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Having discussions with young people about mental health

Initiating conversations about emotional wellbeing with people within your organisation can feel challenging; you may feel out of your comfort zone, especially when it comes to talking with your younger employees. This can be further compounded by a lack of confidence and fear that we might say something ‘wrong’. You may have tried conversations like this in the past and have learned that it doesn’t always go according to plan, and that’s fine.


Mistakes can lead to learning and growth, and will teach you that perseverance is key. By tackling these kinds of conversations you will have the opportunity to test out what works for you and hopefully it will help you feel supported when you are having discussions with a young person about mental health.


Mental Health UK is a great resource when it comes to mental wellbeing, and we are delighted to share some information with you from a guide they’ve created.


Top tips for opening up the conversation


• Think about the setting: what else are they doing or going to be doing around

that time?


• Be respectful of their priorities - is now the best time?


• You aren’t expected to have all the answers, you’re there to listen and guide

them. Try not to panic if they share something which you weren’t prepared for.


• Think of ways that you can discuss things without necessarily using labels like

‘mental health’ or naming conditions such as anxiety or depression as this might

shut down the conversation.


• Be transparent about what you are doing and why you are doing it. You might

want to explain to them that this guide has been helpful for other people, and

that it has ideas that you could explore together.


• Listen out for anything worrying that you might need to act on and refer to our

signposting advice in this pack for organisations that can provide specialist

Support.


• Read this guide before you use it, if you have the chance, and make notes.


Exploring Mental Health


Exploring the following concepts with a young person can boost their confidence in learning how to be mentally healthy.


Wellbeing: the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy. It’s important to highlight the transient nature of these states and how a positive mindset can be important. It’s also ok to have difficult emotions when times are hard.


Own potential: opening up conversations about someone’s potential can be

really powerful. Young people may receive mixed messages about their skills and

abilities, so it’s valuable for them to define these with the support of their loved ones.


Normal stressors: these are things that 95% of people experience. These are often seen as universal stressors, and might mean disagreeing with people, being stuck in bad traffic, or your phone running out of battery. It’s important to recognise that feeling stressed about these things is not a sign of mental illness.


Work productively: working as well as possible to achieve a goal. Help them to draw on examples when they’ve worked at their best. How did they manage to do that? What would be the signs they were working towards that again?


Celebrating small steps


Managing time can be tricky, and so celebrating small wins encourages motivation. Research has found that if you record your progress, even in some small way, it helps boost self-confidence.


These are only just a few of the helpful tips about having discussions with young people about their mental health. To find out more tips and advice from Mental Health UK, read their guide now.

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