Picture the scene
Your family is gathered around your dining table for an evening meal.
Steaming plates of deliciously hearty autumn dishes are placed in front of smiling faces.
You clear your throat; everyone’s beaming faces look toward you, eagerly, as you draw breath to impart pearls of wisdom to your family, who are waiting to hear them with bated breath.
“Hello Family”, your voice booms out “and how is your mental health?”
No, I don’t know anyone who does that either.
Sounds weird, right?
But many of us try to go in from zero to a hundred miles an hour, where family conversations about mental health are concerned.
Most likely because we are responding to our own, or someone else’s crisis.
In our family, it was only discussed when Clarke had tried to kill himself
and was admitted to psychiatric hospital.
Which is not the ideal scenario to start talking about emotional wellbeing, let’s be honest.
Nobody likes to be put on the spot where mental health is concerned.
And nobody wants it to be about them being singled out.
The dining table can be an excellent place to start the ball rolling.
As long as we make it about ourselves.
So much of great mental wellbeing is about our emotions and our emotional responses.
So talking about both of these things, and using ourselves as the example, is the most approachable way we know of doing this.
Clarke is absolutely brilliant at this. And I don’t just say that because he is my handsome husband and I’m low-key obsessed with him.
We talk about our day with the kids, and describe the ins and outs.
And then finish the literal description with how it made us feel.
Then, we advance to hearing other family members tell their anecdote, and ask how it made them feel.
(If they are a bit reluctant to share at first, we throw out a few adjectives to help, some absolutely ludicrous ones for good measure.
Because the eating, the sharing and the laughter, are all equally important for this to work.
Hi, family? how is your mental health? Is a very well meaning thought.
But putting ourselves out there, and starting by making it about us?
That‘s how we get real conversations started