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Talking to a loved one about their mental health

A men supporting a loved one with his mental ill health by talking

It’s highly likely that someone you know will go through mental health challenges at some point in their lives. In fact, two thirds of British adults say they have experienced mental ill health (the Mental Health Foundation).

Having someone to talk to can make a huge difference to a person dealing with mental health challenges.

If you’re worried

If you know your friend, partner or family member has been through a tough time or you’ve noticed them acting differently – for example, seeming low, worrisome or having a shorter temper – you can:

  • Ask how they are and let them know you’re here for them and they can talk to you
  • Try talking to them whilst you’re doing something together
  • If you’re worried about them, let them know.

Avoid putting pressure on someone to talk about their mental health, but don’t be afraid to ask them again every so often. Your loved one may just be waiting for the right moment or be trying to make sense of it themselves before they can put their feelings into words.

If you’re worried about a child’s mental wellbeing, you may find our advice on looking after your family’s mental health useful.

Having a conversation

If someone opens up to you about their mental health:

  • Listen to what they have to say without interrupting them
  • Acknowledge how they feel
  • Let them tell you as much or as little as they want to
  • If you’ve been through something similar, tell them. It helps a lot for someone to feel they’re not alone
  • If you don’t understand something, ask about it. But, if they feel uncomfortable answering, then avoid pushing them
  • If you don’t know how to support them, it’s OK to say so. You can ask what they’d like you to do. Sometimes, just letting them know you’ll be there is all that’s needed
  • Stay in touch with them and try to treat them as you would normally
  • Make yourself available to talk to them again if they need to
  • Don’t share the information with anyone else. If you’re worried about your loved one and you need some advice, it’s best to talk to someone who doesn’t know them. Alternatively, you could speak to someone you trust, but avoid referring to anything that would let them know who you’re talking about.
  • It’s important to avoid:
    • Being dismissive/judgemental – e.g. “man up”, “cheer up”, “what’ve you got to be sad/worried about?” – it takes a lot to open up to someone, so don’t minimise how the other person’s feeling
    • Making fun of them
    • Making assumptions about how they’re feeling or what’s caused their mental health problems
    • Getting frustrated or angry.

If you’re supporting a loved one who’s facing mental health challenges, don’t forget to look after your mental wellbeing too! Read our advice on looking after your mental health.

More information

We also have advice on looking after your mental health and boosting your confidence.

You can find blogs and advice sheets on a range of topics on our financial, mental, physical and social health and wellbeing pages.

We’re here

If you’re facing mental health challenges – or worried about someone who is – you can pick up the phone and call Ben’s confidential helpline on 08081 311 333 or use our online chat. It’s completely free to get in touch with us if you work (or have worked) in the automotive industry, or you are dependent on someone who is.

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