Watching someone you care for struggling with a mental health condition can be difficult. Talking to them about your concerns can be even harder.

Try not to force the issue with your loved one as it might prevent them from seeking support. When speaking with them, be empathetic and nonjudgmental.

Be specific about what concerns you about what is going on, ask for their perspective, and try to understand what they are experiencing.

Try to come to a common understanding of what is going on, but more importantly, what the person dislikes about what is going on and what you will do about it together (and/or separately).

What not to do

What not to do

  • Do not force them to talk if they don’t want to. Rather, let them know that you are there if they wish to talk in the future.
  • Everyone’s journey and experiences are different. Be mindful and respectful of your loved one’s perspective and opinions around their illness.
  • If you have legitimate concerns around the persons immediate health and safety contact 000, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467.
  • Do not blame the person for their mental health condition nor make fun of them.
  • Don’t make statements like “snap out of it”, “you’ll be fine” etc.
  • Avoid putting pressure on the person to talk and/or seek help.
  • Don’t use stigmatising words and language like “you’re crazy” etc.
  • You can check out MHCC’s Recovery Oriented Language Guide around the sort of language you should use
What to do

What to do

  • Find a comfortable and safe place to talk with your loved one. A busy café, food court or place with many people around might not be the best place to talk.
  • Give the person opportunities to talk openly how they are feeling.
  • Explain why you are concerned about them.
  • Respect how your loved one interprets and sees their symptoms, even if it may be different to your interpretation.
  • Be empathetic and listen non-judgmentally to their responses.
  • Do some research prior to your discussion.
  • Speak honestly about your concerns
  • If the person feels they do need help managing how they are feeling, discuss and encourage the use of professional help such as a GP or other mental health professionals.
  • They can ask their GP for a mental health plan to receive either free or at a subsidised rate sessions with a psychologist through Medicare.

Useful phrases to use when speaking with your loved one:

  • Using ‘I’ statements such as “I have noticed… and feel concerned”, instead of “you” statements.
  • “I am here for you.”
  • “I can see that this is a really hard time for you.”
  • “Have you thought about your doctor or calling support services?”

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