Mental health and wellbeing matters: the ‘would it help’ test

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Just a few thoughts about three useful words when we might be about to do something we regret – hopefully, they’ll help.

Hello, and welcome to our spot on the site where we chat about things to do with mental health and general wellbeing. Just a small place for a natter about things that might be affecting some of us in day to day life. Although this week, we’re chatting about a small coping technique.

Oftentimes when discussing the directorial work of Steven Spielberg, 2016’s Bridge Of Spies isn’t one of the movies that tends to frontload the conversation. I’ve always liked it: a quieter historical drama, headlined by Tom Hanks. And with a flat-out superb turn from Mark Rylance, that won him a Best Supporting Actor gong at the Oscars (when he was up against the emotive favourite, Sylvester Stallone for Creed).

I love his precise, diligent work in the movie, and I love a three word utterance that he makes throughout the film as well. It’s the bit that stick with me particularly long after the film finished, and I found myself furiously nodding along when the three words popped up on Radio Five Alive’s Kermode & Mayo’s Film Review programme last year.

“Would it help?”

I keep coming back to these words. Every time I think I’m about to sound something mildly pissy on Twitter. Every time I want to post something a little close to the bone (there’s a long article I wrote on the last few months at my last job, for instance!). Every time I want to say something that might cause unrest or unhappiness to the person on the other side of the conversation.

Would it help?

It’s a really simple, albeit not foolproof, acid test I think. Whenever I can, I try and stop and ask myself the question. It doesn’t talk me out of everything that I want to do, nor does it – or can it – take imperfection out of day to day choices. But I think it’s been of greater benefit to me of harm. I’m reminded of an old friend of mine who told me once that some letters are better to write than to send and I think it’s a similar idea.

What it overlooks of course is that in hot-headed moments, it’s really hard to put the brakes on. That when you’re in the midst of an argument – online or in person – the idea of stopping for a second, asking for a time out and doing a quick reassessment is a bit alien.

Furthermore, it also overlooks I think that sometimes, we have to take a slightly difficult path with things, as joyless as that can be. That occasionally, we do have to do something that might cause unrest, or a few unpleasant sparks.

But still: as a guiding idea, I like it a lot, and I’ve genuinely found it an incredibly useful phrase just to keep near the top of my head. To be used just before my mouth engages, or I hit send on a Tweet.

I’ll leave you with a clip from the film. You all look after yourselves and stay safe.

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