Starting a Mental Health Dialogue with a Stranger

The smallest interaction may save a life

We've grown up learning how to avoid strangers at all costs. "Stranger danger!" has been a part of our vocabulary from a young age and we've been taught not to trust those we don't know. While these lessons are very important in keeping our children and young adults safe, when it comes to mental health, a stranger may save a life.

One of the greatest barriers when struggling with mental health is the overwhelming stigma that comes along with openly embracing and talking about needing help. Many individuals hide their true emotions in fear of judgment from friends, family, peers, and society in general. While we are making tremendous strides towards breaking the stigma against mental illness, it's still understandable to feel hesitant. That's where the strangers come in. You may think of dramatic movie scenes talking someone off of a literal edge, but it can come down to just a simple smile from a stranger that turns someone's mindset around.

two strangers handshake mental health stranger

There is something very alluring about anonymity. It gives a sense of security and extinguishes the fear of personal judgment. Even just writing down your feelings and throwing the page away can be cathartic, but opening a dialogue with another person can be an incredible support system. The youth-run nonprofit Letters to Strangers is a perfect example. The organization establishes chapters across the country in which members write letters about personal mental health experiences that are then delivered to strangers in other chapters or partner organizations. These anonymous letters act as a safe space to be vulnerable and brutally honest. Both sending and receiving deeply personal letters at such a developmental age is an amazing step forward in raising generations without negative stereotypes about mental illness.

If you or a loved one is suffering from mental illness, clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers are here to help.

Call our main number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632 x9500) for more information or to schedule an appointment.