Clinical FeaturesMental Health

‘Hello, How Are You?’: Fostering real connections and mental health support in communities

‘Hello, How Are You?’

In an era characterised by the frantic pace of modern life and the prevalence of digital communication, genuine human connection can sometimes feel like a scarce commodity. Mental Health Ireland’s mission is to promote and enhance mental health and wellbeing and to create a culture where we are all respected and supported, especially when our mental health is challenged. Our current campaign is called Hello, How Are You? and is about connecting with those around us and engaging in open conversations about mental health. It’s about asking the question, ‘How Are You?’ with meaning, and really listening to the response.

The campaign emerges as a reminder of the profound impact that simple acts of kindness can have on mental well-being. Rooted in the belief that meaningful conversations can change lives, this initiative seeks to destigmatise mental health while fostering a culture of support and understanding.

The essence of the campaign lies in a simple question: “How Are You?” Yet, it’s not just about the words; it’s about the intention behind them. It’s about genuinely caring about the answer and being present to listen. By encouraging individuals, communities, workplaces, friends, and families to engage in open dialogue, the campaign aims to create a ripple effect of empathy and support.

Since its inception, the “Hello, How Are You?” campaign has gained momentum across Ireland. From distributing conversation cards and bookmarks to facilitating workshops and discussions, Mental Health Ireland has been instrumental in promoting mental well-being through meaningful connections. By distributing 300,000 conversation cards to people in 2023 alone, the campaign has sparked conversations and challenged societal attitudes towards mental health.

At the heart of the campaign is the recognition that loneliness often accompanies mental distress. By nurturing connections and support networks, individuals can combat feelings of isolation and find solace in human connection. This emphasis on community and belonging underscores the importance of reaching out and checking in on one another, especially during challenging times. Engaging in meaningful conversations always doesn’t require expertise; it requires empathy and sincerity. Mental Health Ireland offers a simple yet effective framework—the HELLO Steps—to guide these interactions:

  • Hello: Extend an invitation to chat, respecting the person’s readiness to engage. Remember that It’s ok if they say no as they may not be ready to talk. If they say yes, then find a quiet spot to talk. Bear in mind that now might not be the right time to talk and they might take you up on your invitation another time.
  • Engage: Foster an open dialogue by asking openended questions and actively listening. Engage with the person by making eye contact with them or whatever feels most comfortable. Be open as possible to the conversation. It helps to ask open ended questions that don’t require yes or no answers. Phrases like ‘Could you tell me more?’ ‘How does that make you feel?’, ‘What has helped before?’ may be useful. When we begin a conversation, it’s only the tip of the iceberg and it might take time to get to a deeper answer. You might get an automatic response of I’m ok or I’m fine. That’s perfectly ok. It takes time to build up trust. This takes us onto the next step
  • Listen: Demonstrate empathy through both words and body language, creating a safe space for expression. Use words and body language that lets the person know that you are listening. Remember you aren’t expected to have all the answers.
  • Learn: Seek to understand the person’s perspective and validate their experiences. Try to look at things from the other person’s perspective. Ask what has worked in the past. Trust that the person is the expert on themselves and what works for them.
  • Options: Empower the individual to explore their options and access support services if needed.

By following these steps, anyone can play a vital role in supporting others’ mental well-being. It’s about being present, showing compassion, and recognising that small gestures can have a profound impact on someone’s life.

In a society where mental health concerns are often met with silence or stigma, initiatives like “Hello, How Are You?” aim to offer something different. They remind us that by fostering connection and empathy, we can create communities where everyone feels respected, supported, and valued. So, the next time you ask someone, “How Are You?”, remember, it’s more than just a question—it’s an opportunity to really listen and meet people where they’re at.

Written by Marie Duffy, PR & Communications Officer with Mental Health Ireland

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