The true power behind mental health conversations: 'Openness and trust'

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·Features and Health Editor
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Mike Davis has never been one to stray away from difficult conversations, which is why much of his podcast Humans of Purpose, centres around normalising chats about mental health.

Speaking to Yahoo Lifestyle in recognition of Mental Health Week, Mike stresses that conversations around the topic should have an open-door policy, and shares some of the ways you take things deeper when speaking to friends, family, colleagues or anyone who may not yet know they are struggling.

humans of purpose podcast mike davis
Mike Davis publishes the Humans of Purpose podcast. Photo: Supplied

"It’s important to get beyond surface level conversations that begin and often end with how are you? What’s happening?," he tells us.

"We can start by adding in questions that enable shared openness, trust and vulnerability like how are you feeling today? How is your mental health? What is keeping you up at night? What is motivating you this week? 

"This is a key part of reducing stigma and normalising conversations around mental health."

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He also says these are the kind of questions who could potentially save someone's life.

"These sorts of questions will also help you to identify early if someone you care about is at risk of declining mental health and to enable prevention and early intervention measures to be taken to help that person," Mike explains.

"You can also ensure that person has the support they need in place, most importantly someone to talk to. And doing so, means we don’t intervene too late when someone is already in crisis."

mental health conversation
The right questions could help someone before they reach crisis point. Photo: Getty

Having spoken to medical professionals, CEOs and high-achieving individuals on an array of topics from health and wellness, to politics, social issues and business, underlying topics of mental health on professional and personal levels are reflected in almost every conversation.

Because whether it’s spoken about or not, Mike says most people struggle with the spectrum of mental health at some point in their lives.

"What I’ve learned from speaking to experts as well as many people with lived experience, is that we all have mental health. We can learn to be mindful of this and think of it as on par with how we monitor and treat our physical health," he says.

One of Mike's favourite interviews to date was with General Medicine Physician & Nephrologist Dov Degen, who has "forged a remarkable career" at major Victorian hospitals, all while living with bi-polar disorder.

"At first he was discriminated against when he spoke up about his condition, but over time as the medical profession has matured he became one of the most respected and loved young doctors in our system," Mike explains.

"He is passionate about mental health and wellbeing and is now a speaker and ambassador for Beyond Blue and SANE Australia.

"Dov is a beacon for the power of individual storytelling of lived mental health experience, authenticity and vulnerability is essential to modernise outdated industry standards and perspectives."

Mental health support for yourself or a loved one can be found by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, Mensline on 1300 789 978, or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800. Online support is available via Beyond Blue.

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