Glossary of Terms to Support Your Mental Health Journey

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, psychologist, therapist or similar. This blog offers ideas, tools, strategies and recommendations based on my experience with anxiety, panic attacks and mental health. I do not guarantee any results or outcomes as strategies that have worked for me may not work for you. For diagnosis and treatment of any physical and mental health condition, consult a licensed professional.

A mental health journey comes with a complete vocabulary of terms. And a clear understanding of these terms will assist you with the process.

Many glossaries for mental health provide definitions of disorders and conditions. So I want to focus this list on terms you will encounter during the self-work aspect of your journey.

This is not a comprehensive list. It is designed to provide a brief overview of these terms. I have also attempted to paraphrase the definitions/meanings so they may be more easily understood.

I plan to continue to add to the list over the next few months, so please feel free to offer suggestions in the comments below.

What are boundaries? Growth? Self-work?

Affirmations

Affirmations are short, positive statements we use to help retrain our brains to think positively. For affirmations to be effective, we need to say them aloud daily until we believe them to be true.

Read More| Generate Positivity with Affirmations

Boundaries

Boundaries are guidelines used to communicate what we need to feel safe, comfortable, supported and respected. Boundaries help us navigate our relationships by giving us the knowledge and ability to say yes and no to protect our well-being. There are seven types of boundaries: physical, emotional/mental, spiritual, financial, sexual, time and non-negotiables. Boundaries can change as relationships evolve.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Psych Central – 7 Types of Boundaries You May Need

Calm

Calm is a generally positive term meaning a state when we are not experiencing strong, negative feelings. This could mean we are free of anger, sadness, anxiety or agitation. Most coping strategies aim to “re-establish calm” or release negative thoughts and emotions.

Comfort Zone

A comfort zone is a physical or mental space in which we feel safe, secure, content and comfortable. A mental comfort zone will dissuade us from partaking in activities that may be mentally or emotionally harmful. A portion of our growth journey may involve expanding our comfort zones. This work will allow us to practice “scary” activities in small doses to redefine what our comfort zones look like.

Read More| 10 Ways to Expand Your Comfort Zone

Comforting Activities

Comforting activities are any enjoyable activity that brings us focus, calm, relaxation and comfort. Many disorders will wear on the mind and body, leaving us exhausted. Comforting activities distract our minds in order to provide much-needed relief. A comforting activity may be sleeping, watching a movie, pursuing a hobby, taking a walk, etc.

Cope/Coping

Courtesy of Oxford Languages: coping means to “deal effectively with something difficult.” The key to coping is finding an effective strategy to manage our symptoms, provide comfort and work on healing. A worthy goal of our journey may be finding coping strategies to control and heal effectively.

Read More| 7 Strategies for Coping With Morning Anxiety

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Emotional intelligence is a psychological theory focusing on skills to identify, understand, control and successfully express our emotions. Most studies and books on EQ focus on the workplace, but the skills are helpful for all interpersonal relationships. Within a mental health journey, practicing EQ skills can help us better understand ourselves and the roots of our negative feelings and mindsets.

Empowerment

Empowerment is all about having control and power over our mental health journey. This includes access to support networks and resources that will aid and encourage us to grow strength, confidence and authority over our lives.

Personal Empowerment

Personal empowerment is the ability to be our personal source of encouragement and support for our mental health journey. It involves taking responsibility for our journey and holding ourselves accountable to do the work, make positive choices and track our progress.

(Mental) Energy

Courtesy of Healthline: mental energy is “a mood state where you feel productive, motivated, and prepared to get things done.” Low mental energy may present as boredom, inability to focus or frequently zoning out. Feeling mentally drained may or may not cause us to also feel physically exhausted. Some mental health disorders claim a lot of our mental energy, whether we are aware of it or not.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Healthline – 8 Tips to Boost Mental Energy, in the Moment and in the Future

Growth

Growth refers to gaining knowledge and abilities to support and improve our mental health.  Growth can be measured by tracking goals or keeping a journal that can show how our mindset has changed. Growth can also be detected as we start recognizing when we are better capable of handling difficult situations than we had been at the beginning of our journey.

Read More| Why You Should Start Journaling

Personal Growth

Personal growth is also referred to as personal development or self-improvement. Personal growth is about developing positive behaviours, habits, mindsets, and skills to improve our mental, physical and emotional health.

Read More| 5 Personality Quizzes for Personal Growth

Healing

Unlike physical health, mental health does not have cures. Healing involves growing by learning how to cope and live with a mental health condition. A healing process begins with the desire to improve ourselves and includes seeking help, whether it be understanding our condition or pursuing therapy.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Psych Central – Can You Cure or Heal the Mind?

Journey

Journey is another word for the process of learning about and taking care of our mental health. We can consider it a journey as there will be a start but no definite ending. There will also be many ups and downs, comprising bright days and challenging experiences. The journey is a worthwhile endeavour to benefit our overall happiness and well-being.

Limiting Beliefs

A limiting belief is a belief or state of mind that limits or prevents us from pursuing and achieving our goals. Limiting beliefs often present themselves as fears or in I can’t/I don’t have/I’m not statements. Affirmations help identify and minimize our limiting beliefs.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Happier Human – 15 Limiting Beliefs Examples That Hold You Back in Life

Mental Focus

Mental focus involves making a conscious effort to concentrate on and work towards achieving our goals. Developing and improving mental focus takes time and practice. It will require us to limit distractions, create time for ourselves, take breaks for comforting activities and to practice mindfulness.

Mental Health

Mental health refers to the health of our thoughts, behaviours and emotions. We can have good mental health or poor mental health. Our mental well-being can influence our relationships, decision-making skills and how we experience the world. It can also simultaneously impact our physical health for better or worse. Poor mental health is not the same as mental illness.

Mental Health Glossary. Learn the terms you will encounter on your mental health journey.

Mental Health Awareness

Mental health awareness aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness. It provides a greater understanding of mental health to reduce misconceptions and increase acceptance. Awareness and acceptance offer greater access to information, diagnoses, treatments and support.

Read More| 5 Steps to Create A Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Mental Health Strategies

Mental health strategies are actions used to achieve our mental health goals. These strategies may include long-term and short-term plans or practical coping activities. Practicing mental health strategies is helpful for everyone to support good mental health or treat a mental illness.

Mental Illness

Mental illness is a mental health condition that negatively disrupts or changes our thoughts, behaviours and feelings. It can make functioning in daily activities and maintaining relationships difficult. It is an umbrella term to refer to all diagnosable mental disorders. Mental illness is treatable.

Read more (I have no affiliation with these websites):

American Psychiatric Association – What is Mental Illness?

Health Direct – Types of Mental Illness

Mindfulness

Courtesy of Greater Good Magazine: “Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.” It is about focusing our attention on acknowledging and accepting our present thoughts and emotions without judgement. Mindfulness provides an opportunity to understand ourselves and our needs better.

Mindset

Mindset is our mental attitude that determines our ideas, beliefs, values, philosophy and worldview. Our mindset is typically established through our social and cultural settings. In some cases, our communities may lead our mindset to perceive mental health practices in a negative light.

Shifting Mindset

A mindset shift is a shift or change of our minds. It allows us to be more critical of our current beliefs and accept different philosophies to support, manage and heal our mental health. A shift in mindset is required for mental health awareness.

Read More| 5 Steps to Create A Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Motivation

Motivation is the driving force behind setting goals and persevering through the necessary work to achieve them. Beyond having a major end goal, motivation can be maintained by setting and achieving small goals along our journey. Being able to track improvements and using personal rewards are effective motivators.

Process

The process is a sequence of steps and stages we follow to achieve our goal of overall improved mental health. Some steps of the process will be difficult (mentally, emotionally and possibly physically). And some stages will feel frustratingly stagnant as if we are not improving or healing. Trust the process, as every bit of work we put into our journey will pay off at some point.

Safe Space

A safe space is an area (whether a physical or social environment) in which a person feels free to be themselves. This means the space is welcoming, accepting, and free from bias, criticisms and risks of physical or emotional harm. And can include acceptance of different values, sexualities, mental health, etc. 

Read More| 5 Steps to Create a Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Self-Care

Self-care is literally caring for the self. It is a combination of activities we follow to support our good physical, mental (or psychological), emotional and spiritual (religious or not) health. Self-care requires positive daily habits to establish a healthy environment and lifestyle. And includes activities to help us handle stressors.

Self-Discovery

Self-discovery allows us to learn about who we are, separate from the opinions and values of our family, peer groups and culture, in order to follow our own path. The process will allow us to understand our personal feelings, thoughts, needs and priorities to become who we want to be. Self-discovery can include learning about our personality, identifying our strengths and weaknesses, unlearning limiting beliefs and behaviours, and growing self-confidence.

Read More| 5 Personality Quizzes for Personal Growth

Self-Love

Courtesy of Brain & Behavior: “Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth.” At its core, self-love means showing kindness to ourselves. It encourages us to prioritize our happiness and well-being rather than be lost in the needs and expectations of others. Self-love involves using positive inner thoughts, setting boundaries, treating ourselves respectfully, and nurturing our growth. It is neither selfish nor vain as prioritizing ourselves leaves us with a better capacity to support others.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Brain & Behavior – Self-Love and What It Means

Self-Work

Self-work is the work and effort we dedicate to improving ourselves. From setting goals to developing mental health strategies to seeking professional assistance, we must hold ourselves accountable to do the work before receiving the reward.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Hello Giggles – Here’s How You Can Start Your Self-Work Journey

Soothing

Soothing relieves pain or discomfort to create a feeling of calm. Different soothing methods may be used to target physical, mental, emotional or spiritual pain. Effective soothing techniques will differ from person to person, so it may be helpful to test multiple options and suggestions.

Read More| How to Self-Soothe During A Panic Attack

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Positive Psychology – 24 Best Self-Soothing Techniques and Strategies for Adults

Stigma

Courtesy of Better Health: “stigma is when someone sees you in a negative way because of your mental illness.” Stigma involves prejudice and discrimination that is often the result of misinformation, disinformation and deception. It may prevent people from seeking help, which will, in turn, cause mental illness to worsen. Always remember that mental illness is only one aspect of our identity, and everyone has a right to strive for good mental health.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Better Health – Stigma, discrimination and mental illness

Therapy

Therapy or counselling is the process of meeting with a trained and licensed mental health provider in a series of sessions. Sessions may be completed privately, as a couple or in a group as needed. The term “therapy” is surrounded by stigma. However, therapy is a very healthy activity for our mental well-being and is similar to seeking physical healthcare. Therapy benefits everyone, whether seeking treatment for a mental illness or looking to improve their overall mental health.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is therapy more specifically aimed at treating mental illness. A trained mental health professional may assist us in learning the cause of our condition and how to cope effectively. Psychotherapy is a clinical term we may choose to use while searching for an appropriate therapist. However, it is acceptable to refer to any form of therapy as therapy.

Glossary for Mental Health

Trauma

Courtesy of American Psychology Association: “trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event.” Physical or psychological symptoms may present immediately after the event or arise years later. Sometimes the traumatic response will be to forget specific details of the event, but our mind will still remember the danger. Psychotherapy can help unearth the details of the traumatic event to provide treatment.

Trigger

Courtesy of Healthline: “triggers are anything that might cause a person to recall a traumatic experience they’ve had.” Anything may trigger a memory of the event, including images, scents, sounds or someone discussing a similar experience. The trigger may cause minor to dangerous emotional or psychological pain. A minor reaction may be soothed with self-care and mental health strategies. However, a strong reaction may be dangerous to our safety and require help from a professional mental healthcare provider.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Healthline – What It Really Means to Be Triggered

Trigger Warning (TW)

A trigger warning is often used on social media to indicate the content may be triggering. TW will be included at the top of the post and should be followed by the topic (i.e. TW: violence). The increasing use of trigger warnings is an example of the benefits of mental health awareness.

What other words should I add? Let me know in the comments below!

5 Steps to Create a Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, psychologist, therapist or similar. This blog offers ideas, tools, strategies and recommendations based on my experience with anxiety, panic attacks and mental health. I do not guarantee any results or outcomes as strategies that have worked for me may not work for you. For diagnosis and treatment of any physical and mental health condition, consult a licensed professional.

As someone who has created a blog to share my mental health journey, I am grateful that people are becoming more receptive to mental health discussions.

Read More | 7 Strategies for Coping With Morning Anxiety

However, I recognize mental health awareness and acceptance are still relatively new. And I have noticed that many people lack the skills or understanding of how to engage in these conversations.

But I don’t want to use that as a criticism.

Man and woman in their safe space overlooking a forested mountain side

I was born in the 80s and raised believing that mental health conversations are taboo. We shouldn’t talk about it, we shouldn’t ask about it, and we should pretend it doesn’t exist.

It’s a difficult mindset to break, even more so without tools or guidance.

This difficulty is felt by those working on their mental health and those who want to support them.

In this post, I want to outline the skills necessary for discussing mental health and how to use them to create a safe space.

3 Key Skills for Discussing Mental Health

The main skills you need for discussing and understanding mental health are:

  1. Empathy: the ability to emotionally understand an experience from another’s viewpoint.
  2. Openness: the ability to be unbiased, honest and receptive to another’s experience.
  3. Consideration: the ability to think of and care for the feelings and needs of others.

These skills are required for both processing and supporting mental health. This means that both participants must practice these skills to have an effective conversation.

You will need to break your current mindset before you can develop these skills.

How Not To Discuss Mental Health

A common mistake I have experienced is people assuming that being open to mental health discussions warrants immediate permission.

Permission to do what?

Well, first, permission to ask questions.

This is a double-edged sword. Asking questions is acceptable because it shows your willingness to learn more about someone. But it’s very easy for questions to slip into inappropriate territory.

Second, permission to know sensitive details.

A relationship should not hinge on how deeply a person shares their history. There is no requirement for someone to share their trauma. And no time limit that earns the right to further details.

Third, permission to share.

In this case, I am referring to instances when a third party expects information that was shared in confidence. For example, the third party could express their desire for information in statements like “I just want to know more about them” or “what are they dealing with?”

I want to be very explicit and say that you do not have the right to know, and I do not have the right to tell you about someone else’s mental health diagnosis or history.

Before reading further, try to release these assumptions from your mind.

How to Practice Empathy, Openness and Consideration When Discussing Mental Health

A.      Remember that mental health is one aspect of who we are.

Though it can be a significant part and hold a lot of sway over our lives, we are not our diagnosis.

B.      Understand that discussing mental health is not easy.

It’s legitimately scary.

When someone reveals their trauma or vulnerabilities, they are leaving themselves exposed.

And no one wants to be left vulnerable or open to further harm.

C.      Appreciate that being an ally for mental health requires work, trust and protection.

You can’t back out if you opt to be there for someone. They will rely on you.

At the same time, you cannot expect them to trust or open up to you quickly.

You must demonstrate again and again that you can be trusted.

D.     Accept that this is a give-and-take relationship.

Both parties must willingly participate and make an effort.

If your effort is not being reciprocated, then end the discussion.

And understand that just because you want to share your history does not mean the other person must do so.

E.      Recognize that all mental health discussions must take place in a safe space.

A safe space is crucial for offering a sense of protection.

It will also give both parties a clear understanding of how to participate in these difficult discussions.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Mental Health America – Time To Talk: Tips For Talking About Your Mental Health

CAMH – Addressing Stigma

McLean Hospital – Let’s Face It, No One Wants To Talk About Mental Health

What Is a Safe Space?

A safe space is an area (whether a physical or social environment) in which a person feels free to be themselves. This means the space is welcoming, accepting, and free from bias, criticisms and risks of physical or emotional harm. And can include acceptance of different values, sexuality, mental health, etc. 

For this post, I will focus on the social environment in a safe space and how to create it for mental health discussions.

If you are interested in reading more about physical safe spaces, check out these posts from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Very Well Mind – How To Create Your Own ‘Safe Space’

Thrive – How to Create Your Own Safe Space at Home

My Peer Toolkit – Creating a safe space (This information is focused on young people)

A socially safe space is a comfortable environment for open discussions.

It is also an environment where a person feels safe to decline or selectively participate in certain topics.

Essentially, we want to create an environment where a person knows that we are here when they want to talk and will respect them when they don’t.

A safe space is something we build together.

It requires both parties to offer security, trust and openness.

And it takes time, effort and vulnerability to maintain.

An X symbol to denote what a safe space is not.

It is not something you are entitled to because of your relationship or because you are a nice person.

It is also not a tit-for-tat exchange. You cannot expect someone to share their deepest secret because you felt comfortable sharing yours.

Understand and accept that everyone will share what they can when they can. And remember to appreciate the trust they have in you.

Tips to Create a Safe Environment to Discuss Mental Health

“We don’t create a safe space for someone. Instead, we create a safe space with someone.”

– Ryan Tan, Samaritans of Singapore

1.      Verbally State Your Intentions

Have a conversation to establish that you want to create a safe space with the person you are talking to.

And I recognize this can be easier said than done, so try planning for this conversation.

First, think of why you have chosen this person:

  • What is your current relationship?
  • What do you want your relationship to be?
  • Why do you feel safe with them? (Think of specific examples.)
  • What do you want to share with them (i.e., your experience or support)?

Read More | Why You Should Start Journaling

You don’t have to tell the person why you chose them, but you need to understand why you did.

Why you chose them will determine how you broach the topic and how hard you are willing to work on creating this safe space.

Second, choose and rehearse the words you want to use.

This is a meaningful discussion. You don’t need a prepared speech. But you will want to organize your thoughts so they don’t come out as confusing word vomit.

  • How will you start the conversation? Will you be direct and to the point or feel things out first?
  • How could you transition a conversation into this discussion?
  • Why do you want to build a safe space with them?
  • Might this conversation make them uncomfortable? How can you make it easier?
  • How can you clarify that you are open to discussing mental health without suggesting criticism?

One thing I will caution is not to approach someone and say that you want to discuss their mental health.

Focus on the prize of building a safe space together to serve both your journeys. And yes, being a support system is its own journey.

An infographic for the 5 steps to create a safe environment to discuss mental health: 1. Verbally State Your Intentions. 2. Establish Boundaries. 3. Do Not Disclose Too Much Too Fast 4. Build Trust 5. Reinforce Your Safe Space

2.      Establish Boundaries

Once you have opened the discussion to create a safe space, it’s time for the work to begin.

Boundaries are the main area where your empathy, openness and consideration skills will converge.

Remember that a safe space offers security, inclusion and respect.

And boundaries are the guidelines we share to protect ourselves and respect others. We may also consider them as a means of relaying our needs.

Some examples of boundaries that may create a safe space are:

  • Do not lie to me.
  • Do not share my story with others.
  • Tell me when you are uncomfortable sharing.
  • Understand that when I cannot share, it is not because I don’t trust you.

Again, these are just examples.

Your boundaries will be specific to your needs. They can be based on your personal history and current relationship with the person and be subject to change.

Four factors to establishing boundaries in a safe space:

  1. Consider what you need in a safe space and set it as a boundary.
  2. Verbally state your boundaries to ensure your needs are clear.
  3. Be open to accepting the boundaries set by the other person.
  4. Discuss and negotiate if your boundaries clash (i.e., you have opposing needs that may leave one or both of you uncomfortable).

When negotiating boundaries, keep in mind you are creating a safe space for each other.

Negotiating boundaries can take a lot of work and compromise.

Just remember why you wanted this safe space and give it the effort it deserves.

And know it may not be easy, but this conversation is crucial.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Psych Central – 10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries

Real Simple – This Is What It Looks Like to Set Personal and Emotional Boundaries

3.      Do Not Disclose Too Much Too Fast

You’ve discussed your desire to create a safe space and have established boundaries. So it may feel like it’s time to tell your life story. Not so fast!

It can feel exciting to have someone you can share with. But being too open comes with many downsides.

First, you don’t want to trauma dump on others.

And this could be done by either party. Sometimes an ally will dump their whole history to encourage the other person to share theirs. But while you may feel a sense of relief, you have now burdened or possibly hurt the other person.

Instead, start learning how to discuss trauma constructively. This includes finding a balance between under-sharing and oversharing. And allow room for the other person to assert their boundaries and protect their well-being.

Second, oversharing very quickly does not demonstrate trust.

Instead, it can be perceived as attention-seeking behaviour.

Consider a safe space like it’s an unknown body of water. You don’t know how deep it is. And if you dive right in, you may end up hurt or appear untrustworthy for being reckless.

Treat this space with care.

Third, you never want to give the impression that you would share this personal information with just anyone.

On the contrary, demonstrate that this information is something that you keep close and only share with select people.

Build trust slowly by sharing information in small doses over a few conversations.

This will also go a long way in creating a trusted, safe space.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Psych Central – Trauma Dumping: Why Considering the Impact of Oversharing Matters

Very Well Mind – When Oversharing Turns into Trauma Dumping, and How to Stop

Forbes – There Is A Clear Line Between Oversharing And Being Authentic — Here’s How To Avoid Crossing It

4.      Build Trust

You want to demonstrate both your trust and trustworthiness.

Showing trust does not only mean being vulnerable. Vulnerability is actually something you work towards. And you cannot be genuinely vulnerable before building a foundation of trust.

How do you build trust?

  • Be honest and reliable.
  • Be open with what you are comfortable sharing.
  • Demonstrate you feel secure with stopping a conversation if you are uncomfortable.
  • Verbally assert your current boundaries and open a discussion when you want to change them.
  • Listen and show understanding.
  • Let the other person know you appreciate their trust and confidence.
  • Ensure your actions align with your words.
  • Do not offer solutions, criticize or dismiss an experience.

Once you gain trust, never discussing what you have been told in confidence with or around a third party is crucial. This includes alluding to or hinting at having private information.

I’m not sure why some people do this. Perhaps they are bragging about having a close relationship. Or maybe they wrongly assume this shows they won’t tell anyone specific details. I honestly don’t know.

But it’s best to keep the fact that you are a trusted confidant a secret.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Talk Space – How to Make Every Space a Safe Space

Positive Psychology – 10 Ways To Build Trust in a Relationship

5.      Reinforce Your Safe Space

Remember that the safe space is for both of you. You will want to share your feelings and follow up with the other person.

Check in to ensure the space still feels safe and comfortable to all parties involved.

  • If any boundaries need to be changed, adjust them.
  • If the discussions have been too difficult, ask to take a step back.
  • If trust has been bent or broken, discuss it.

How often you check in depends on your relationship and how frequently you discuss difficult topics.

It’s also important to check in on the other person whenever you feel unsure about something.

For example, I’ve experienced moments when I was unsure if I had pushed against a boundary. Once I realized I may have made a mistake, I would state, “Please let me know if I’m being too much or if you feel uncomfortable.”

Again, maintaining a safe space requires constant work. But keeping communication focused on consideration for each other will make the work easier.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Ourselves Black – Breaking The Stigma: 4 Ways To Start The Mental Health Conversation

Think Mental Health – How to start the conversation

Sage Thinking – Creating Safe Spaces for Courageous Conversations

The Ladders – How to make every space a safe space

How Boundaries May Change in A Safe Space

You may be wondering why I keep mentioning adjusting or changing boundaries.

The ability to change boundaries is what makes a space safe.

Your comfort with and trust in the other person will be ever-evolving.

I will outline three possible stages in maintaining a safe space from the perspective of someone sharing their trauma. This will give you an idea of what it could look like.

However, everyone’s journey is different, so please do not judge your safe space against these examples.

In stage one, you may feel very guarded and unsure if this person is safe. You know that you want to tryto create a close relationship, but you also want to protect yourself.

You will likely have rigid boundaries using “do not” or “cannot” wording. This is because telling others what is not acceptable to you provides protection.

In stage two, the other person has demonstrated they are trustworthy. You may begin to feel secure but not yet ready to open up fully.

This is a good time to re-assess and discuss your boundaries.

Perhaps you will change your boundaries from “do not” rules into “if I’m feeling [emotion], I will/won’t [action]” statements. This tells the other person that you feel more comfortable exploring difficult topics and secure with showing some vulnerability.

In stage three, you may feel confident that you are in a truly safe space. This doesn’t mean that you will be an open book. Instead, it means that you will clearly understand what you can and want to share.

You will still have boundaries. And some may still use “do not” wording, and others may still include if/then statements. But maybe you will create a new personal boundary for yourself to follow.

It is also possible that someone may downgrade from stage 2 to stage 1. This could result from a problem in the safe space or an external factor.

It’s important to understand that a safe space will always require boundaries. And that’s a good thing.

Try to remain empathetic, open and considerate.

How to discuss mental health. 5 tips to create a safe environment.

Summary

If you are new to discussing mental health, I hope you will find this information useful. Just having an interest in starting these conversations is an excellent first step. Remember that being a support system requires a lot of discussions, effort and patience with minimal reward. You will make mistakes. And you may never understand how someone feels or the full details of their journey. But it means a lot to anyone working on their mental health to know that someone is there or wants to be there.

Takeaways

  • Try to release negative and harmful assumptions about mental health from your mind.
  • Focus on creating a safe space and understand what that looks like.
  • Start working on your empathy, openness and consideration skills.
  • Use empathy to understand that sharing information can be difficult and takes time.
  • Also, respect that you may never get full details and that’s okay.
  • Use openness to talk to your person and let them tell you what they need from you.
  • Never assume you know what is best.
  • Use consideration to create and respect boundaries.
  • And understand that it is not disrespectful when a person does not open up to you.
  • Keep trying not by asking or demanding more answers, but rather by asserting I am here if you need to talk.

Did I miss any negative assumptions about mental health? Also, as a safe space will look different for everyone, please share your opinion in the comments on how to create a safe space.