Talking About Mental Health With Wentworth Miller

Watch this short video clip to hear from two hugely committed #StigmaFighters!

Dani Lukens, an Active Minds outreach specialist, spoke with Wentworth Miller, the popular actor and Active Minds’ Ambassador for Mental Health, about how talking about someone’s mental health is not an easy conversation to have, and yet how important it is to try.

Wentworth Miller also provides some great suggestions, based on his own experiences, for what to say to someone you’re concerned about, and how having this conversation is one of the best first steps for helping someone who’s struggling.

We admire the way Dani and Wentworth fully embrace Active Minds’ mission to “change the conversation about mental health!”

You, too, can show the world this is a cause you care about by making a donation to Active Minds’ lifesaving mission. Plus, every $5 you donate from now through December 9 is an entry to win a fun #BreaktheStigma prize package for you or a friend.

Give. Save. Win. See all the details here!

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Dani: While on tour with Send Silence Packing, the most common feedback I get from students is “Thank you.” At every exhibit, I have students express their gratitude for bringing to light something that is still so difficult to talk about for many people. So when you first started talking about your own mental health, what were some of the reactions that you got from your family, your friends, your fans as well?

Wentworth: That’s an evolving conversation. I’ve said before that, we all have to come out many times and in many ways, and so for me it feels as though I’m coming out about my mental health history and situation almost on a daily basis.

And it’s different every time, depending on who you’re talking to. Some people are ready to have that conversation with me. Some people are ready to hold a space for the fact that I have experienced depression and I’ve had suicidal thoughts, that there have been long stretches in my life where I’ve struggled. Some people know how to be with that, and other people in my experience, don’t. They’re either triggered by that conversation because it brings up something in themselves, or there’s maybe a desire to immediately fix it and make it ok.

My preferred response is, “Tell me more.” My preferred response is, “How was that for you.” My preferred response is, “I’m sorry that that happened. What can I do to support you in this process?”

I think a lot of people, understandably, because the conversation is so new, don’t know how to speak into it, and so they choose not to. They choose to erect a wall of silence.

But my advice to someone who is wanting to speak into that conversation — because maybe they have a friend or loved one that they can see is going through something — is to start from a place of “I don’t know.” Use that as your springboard.

“I feel like you’re going through something. I see you going through something. But I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know what to say exactly. I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing.”

And out of that admission, you’ve created a space that invites the other person to step into whatever their truth may be. The conversation has begun.

And I think that’s really the most important part of that whole process. Beginning the conversation. Whatever that looks like. And I think, “I don’t know how to begin the conversation” is a great start.

This piece originally appeared on the Active Minds Blog.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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