Happy #BellLet’sTalk Day! Yes, I know that it is somewhat commercial with ‘Bell’ in the hashtag, but the reality is that this day raises millions of dollars for mental health research and treatment (over 100 million to date if my memory serves me right), and is donated by Bell – to me that deserves a huge THANK YOU…commercial or not.

Thanks to champions such as Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes, we are learning how talk is the key to the initiation of mental health illness diagnosis and treatment, and what a tremendously important awareness that is! But what happens when a loved one or friend does talk to you? What do you do? Take it from this mental illness survivor when I say that now that we’ve encouraged the discussion, the correct action is essential! But don’t worry, the answer may be more simple than you think. It goes like this…are you ready?…LISTEN!

Family and friends are often so well intentioned and hate to see their loved one in pain -of any kind. But when it comes to mental health, the often stigma-filled invisible pain which is associated with it makes for an uncomfortable conversation between people because of two factors. 1) the person talking about their personal concern is afraid of being judged, and 2) the person being told about the concern doesn’t know how to help. Well let me ease some minds out there on #BellLetsTalk Day and say to you that if you are on the receiving end of the talk, you don’t need to know how to fix the person at all, you just need to listen!

Refrain from saying, “You just need to do this or that“… The person suffering would if they could. Refrain from saying, “Don’t worry it will pass”… The person suffering won’t believe you. Refrain from changing the subject because YOU are uncomfortable!… The person suffering may not open up to you again if you do. Refrain from diagnosing, or changing the subject to something about yourself… The person talking has probably went over what to say to you a million times and has finally gotten the courage to talk…so just LISTEN!

You don’t need to have the answers right away! The person talking doesn’t expect you too; they are just as confused as you and I can tell you from experience that at the point of first-conversation, the ONLY thing on the sufferers mind is hope that they will be listened to!

Don’t minimize their feelings…just listen. Give your FULL attention to them! Because sadly, the reality is that on this #BellLet’sTalk Day, people will still die because no one listened.

Open your ears today, this may be the only chance you get to listen.