Moving beyond “I’m fine”
We relish the opportunity to invite people to feel more comfortable with addressing mental health. Something you’ll hear from us over and over again is to take the guess work out of how to support people and ask them what they need.
However, we should back it up just a bit.
Often times, when we ask young people how they are doing we get the typical ‘fine’. This is not unusual and should not deter us from continuing the conversation but we need to set you up a little better. Before you get more than a simple, fine response you must take the time to establish relationship and create psychological safety.
When we contemplate the naturalness of building relationships, we often do so without giving it much thought. However, the type of relationship you want to build deserves some consideration. When it comes to those who are influential, valuable people in the lives of young people you must accept the power of being the one who sets the tone. If you want to move beyond the ‘fine’ responses ask yourself ‘What you have done to create relationship?’
Building healthy relationships is vital to wellbeing. Without relationship there is little expectation that someone is going to open up. Admittedly, it can take a lot of time to get there but the process in and of itself allows for individuals to start to consider you as someone they may feel comfortable talking to.
If you want to move beyond the ‘fine’ responses ask yourself ‘What you have done to create relationship?’
So, are you prepared to be more purposeful, to think about ‘How have I shown my players that I am here for them?’ If you’re unsure, consider how often they talk to you about things aside from sport. If their only communication with you is related to their sport they have likely figured out that that is what you are interested in and where your relationship ends. Another thing to pay attention to is whether they stop chatting when you walk in the room or continue on allowing you into that space? While some view this as a lack of respect or disinterest when young people trust you to ‘overhear’ their conversations you are very likely on the right track.
If a plan could be helpful allow us to outline some ways to demonstrate to your players that you are interested in who they are and equally as important, care about their wellness and their mental health.
Take the time to listen
- This shows them you care about what they have to say and in turn, care about them.
- When you do this, make sure there is little distraction pulling you from the conversation. By doing so, it shows them the conversation matters.
Communicate without judgement
- Being non-judgemental lowers defensive walls. If an individual sees you as someone who accepts them as they are, you become a go to option for them when things become difficult.
Make time for them
- Making time for your players lets them know you are there for them, that they matter. If one of your players is reaching out – accept it with the gratitude it deserves.
- This doesn't have to be elaborate. Simple gestures like acknowledging players when they come into the dressing room, purposefully choosing players to demonstrate drills, giving them a tap on the back when they come to the bench despite not having their best shift.
When you dedicate time to build healthy relationships with your players the psychological safety that can result is beyond worth the effort. You have started to create a space where the willingness of your players to communicate with you is strengthened. What may have been a ‘fine’ response will start to sound a lot more like a full sentence.
Now that we have laid the foundation that will allow for further conversation, stay tuned for our next blog where we will dive right into starting those conversations.
Followed by our Webinar, May 11th where we will be taking a closer look at how to recognize the signs that your athlete may be suffering as well as how to approach those who you feel may be struggling with mental health.
JOIN THE FREE WEBINAR, TUESDAY MAY 11, 11AM MST:
Supporting athletes who are struggling with mental health concerns
In the interest of being cautious, many coaches hesitate to reach out to athletes who may be struggling with mental health concerns. Join psychotherapists Jessica Renney and Paula McQuaid as we will take a look how you don’t have to be a professional to be a source of support to those who are struggling.