Talking to someone you’re concerned about may make all the difference. You can help them feel less alone and more supported. Ask if they’re okay, listen to what they tell you and support them to get the help they need. Below are tips and conversation starters to help you.
- Choose a good time and place to talk where you are both comfortable and relaxed.
- Mention the change in behaviour you’ve noticed. “I’ve noticed that you’ve been……”
- Encourage the person to talk by using open-ended questions g. “How are you feeling today?” “What’s going on for you?” or “What’s on your mind?” If the person is reluctant to talk, ask more questions, don’t give up.
- Listen actively, giving the person time to talk without interrupting or giving advice. Avoid the temptation to fill the silences.
- Reflect back some of the things you’ve heard to show you understand.
- Encourage them to talk to their GP or another health professional if they need help. If they are a close friend or family member you may offer to go with them as support.
1. Ask if they’re okay
Simply asking how someone is going is a great way to start the conversation. Explain the differences you’ve noticed and ask them if they’re OK.
Raise the topic in a way that feels comfortable to you. There’s no right or wrong way to say that you’re concerned. Just be genuine.
Explain why you’re concerned
What have you noticed that’s worried you? Maybe their mood has changed or they’ve been acting differently.
Be prepared to wait
They may not want to talk about their mental health yet. Don’t pressure them. By noticing and saying something, you’ve shown you care and are willing to have the conversation when they’re ready.
2. Listen to what they tell you
Encourage them to talk about what’s going on. Listen to how they feel, what they’re thinking and what they’re doing differently.
Take your time
Take time to try to understand their experience of feeling anxious or depressed. Everyone’s experience is unique. Recognise and validate how they’re feeling.
Don’t give advice
It’s natural to want to solve the problem to make them feel better. However, the most helpful thing you can do is listen. It’s important to give them space to talk and feel heard. Try to avoid making assumptions or offering solutions, advice or a diagnosis.
Be comfortable with silence
A silence may make you feel uncomfortable at first but see it as a chance for you both to gather your thoughts. Help them to feel at ease and follow their lead.
Be non-judgmental if they share things that are hard to hear or you don’t understand. Together you can work out how to move forward.
3. Support them to get the help they need
Keep what they tell you private, unless they’re at risk of hurting themselves or someone else.
Reassure them they are not alone and there is hope that things can get better.
Be patient, help them to overcome any setbacks, and point out any improvements you see.
Help them explore their options for feeling better. Check your understanding of the situation and what you might be able to do to help.
- Black Dog Institute
- Parkinson’s NSW Counsellors
- EAP Assist