We’re really not at a point where talking about mental health issues is easy. I’d like to spend a short while talking about one way we can work together to make it a little bit better. If someone opens up to you about some emotional insecurity, please don’t tell them “It’s okay to get help!” or “You should get help for that!”
All too often when sharing bits of my experiences I get responses like these. Odds are if someone tells you about their telephone anxiety, for example, they aren’t asking you for relief from their troubles. They’re probably trying to share an experience to help build a sense of personal trust, or letting other people know they’re not alone, or just contributing to an ongoing conversation with something they think is relevant.
The comments on Jen’s telephone anxiety post that I linked to above is a fantastic example of how I think conversations should go. On some level I think everyone can relate to this. The first SMS messaging services appeared in the mid ’90s, slowed primarily by carriers trying to figure out how to bill for them. I think it’s pretty indicative of a common dislike of voice calls when one of the first things people want to do upon inventing a portable phone is use it to send 140 character text messages instead of using as, you know, a phone.
So the next time the conversation turns to someone’s anxieties, no matter what they may be, are they looking for a reference to a counselor, or just trying to contribute to the conversation? It’s probably the former. Try to be a friend and not a medical advice dispensary.