Mental health awareness campaigns need to emphasise the importance of being a good listener and taking time-out to listen to those going through a difficult phase in their life. These are the thoughts of Fiji National University’s (FNU) Bachelor of Nursing student, Simran Shivani.
The final year student believes not having a good listener available can make things extremely difficult and uncomfortable for the person suffering from mental health issues.
“Campaigns usually have a huge focus on people being encouraged to talk about their issues, which is equally important, but I feel this leaves too much responsibility on the person who is already going through a tough time or is even suicidal,” said Shivani.
“It makes me sad to see how people are so comfortable talking about their body or physical pain but are embarrassed to open up about their mental issues.”
“Personally, I feel one of the reasons people with mental health issues find it difficult to share their thoughts is to avoid being judged.”
Shivani said the focus should now shift to breaking this barrier of the society being judgmental.
“As a listener, you should not interrupt with advice on how to ‘fix’ a situation.”
“When your friends, family members or even a stranger decides to reveal their feelings to you, they trust that you won’t judge them. We should not stop them in between the conservation and start giving our own opinions – this may cause the person to become uncomfortable and not be able to share the real feeling.”
She highlighted that being a mindful listener can make a huge difference to someone going through a tough time.
Shivani acknowledged the talk sessions organised by FNU to educate the students on different aspects of mental health.
“When our friends talk about their problems we may not pay attention to it and sometimes even laugh it off but having attended such forums where we learn how to respond in such situations gives us the opportunity to better assist our peers.”
“The mental health talk session has also made me realise how important it is to go back and check on my friends if they need someone to talk to,” Shivani added.
Various programs related to mental health and health screenings have been organised at different FNU campuses. The University’s Mental Health Awareness month will culminate with the World Mental Health Day on 8 October.