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How to talk to someone who may be struggling with their mental health

Despite being originally tailored for a young audience, these tips are relevant to anyone who is worried that someone they know may be struggling with their mental health.

At least 1 in 5 young people will experience difficulties with their mental health (World Health Organisation, 2013), so chances are, you know someone who is struggling. Sometimes it is difficult to know if someone is struggling, as it can be hard for people to open up to others about their mental health, even if they want to. But you might have noticed changes in a friend, family member or colleague, or know that they have gone through a hard time recently. These things might make you question if they are experiencing mental health difficulties.

It can seem daunting reaching out to someone you think is struggling; you might feel like you don’t know what to say or do. But there are some really simple things you can do to help, which will go a long way to support the person you are worried about:

Start small:

Sending a simple message saying “hello, how are you doing?” or even a meme that you think will make them smile with a message like “I thought you’d find this funny, hope you’re doing okay”, is a good place to start. This will help the other person know that you are thinking about them.

Stay in touch:

Try to not be offended if they take a long time to reply or don’t reply to your first message. Sometimes when people are struggling with their mental health, they find it really hard to speak to people, so it may take them some time. Don’t give up after your first try; message again to show you really care about how they are doing.

Suggest an activity:

Maybe a gaming night, Netflix party, or a meet up for a walk in the park. Doing an activity together can help show the other person that you care and that you’re interested in spending time with them, albeit remotely at the current time. Spending more time together may help them feel more comfortable with you, which might lead to them feeling able to share how they have been feeling.

Be aware of changes:

If someone is struggling with their mental health, you might notice some changes to their personality. For example, they might become more angry, tired, forgetful, worried or sensitive. Bear this in mind when talking to them and try not to take things personally. Be kind and patient with them.

Look to celebrities:

There are lots of celebrities who have spoken publicly about their mental health – Dwayne Johnson, Rio Ferdinand, Demi Lovato and Kendrick Lamar to name just a few. Try using celebrities and their experiences as a way to start a conversation about mental health. This will help show the other person that mental health is something you feel comfortable talking about. It can also help you both discuss how mental health is something no one should feel ashamed of, it affects everyone, even the people you’d least expect.

Listen:

If the person you are worried about opens up to you, be there to listen. It can feel hard knowing what to say, but don’t worry about ‘not saying the right thing’. You don’t need to try and ‘fix’ them or give expert advice. Simply being there, being understanding and non-judgemental, and hearing what they have to say is a massive step in that person’s journey towards feeling better.

If you are worried about someone’s mental health, don’t be afraid to suggest that they phone a helpline (such as Samaritans on 116 123) or speak to their GP about how they have been feeling.

Manchester Mind offers a range of services for adults and for young people, age 15-25. All of our services have been adapted to ensure we can continue to help as many people as we can during this difficult time. For all the latest services updates please see our news pages.