How to approach someone you think is suffering with their mental health

November 28, 2018
Select Psychology

We all hear what NOT TO SAY to someone who we suspect is struggling with their mental health. But what about what we SHOULD SAY to someone we believe needs help? 

Start off with a simple “how are you”?

Sometimes it can be hard to know what to say when speaking to someone about mental illness. You might worry that asking them about it will make them angry or embarrassed or it might make them feel worse.

It is easy to underestimate the power of starting a conversation with someone you are worried about.

You may not even know why you are worried about them: just a gut feeling: they don’t seem their usual self- and it can be easy to brush it under the carpet, but a simple “how are you” can make all the difference.

Be natural

Raise the topic in a way that feels natural “you seem quiet, is everything ok?”

Explain what you have observed. For example you may have noticed that they have been avoiding social situations or seem on edge.

Just let them know you are available to listen.

Reflect parts of the conversation

When they do talk to you validate what they are saying by reflecting parts of the conversation back to them. This makes people feel listened to and validated

Ask them what you can do to help and don’t make assumptions about what that might be.

Remember, you can’t fix someone else’s depression, you just have to be available to offer support and help.

It may take time

Don’t worry if the first conversation doesn’t lead to them opening up, it can take time.

Just make sure that they know you are there when needed and don’t be afraid to bring up the conversation again.

Encourage them and take care of yourself too

Encourage them to get help and remind them that they are not alone; with the right support they will get back on track.

If you are supporting someone with a mental illness you may also find that you experience some difficult emotions: you may worry about them, feel frustrated or angry, or guilty.

These are normal feelings and it is important that you also take time out to take care of yourself and seek support.

Seek help

When seeking help it can be difficult to know where to start.

We offer free telephone consultations that will help you to know the difference between the different types of support that are available and offer advice about the best way forward.

You can reserve a free consultation by using our online booking system:

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