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If someone is going through a really tough time, it can be a massive relief to be given permission to say ‘I’m not OK’ and to be given an easy opportunity to ask for help.
In this section we help you to spot when someone may needs help and to give you some guidance on how to initiate a conversation.
Tip 1: Be receptive
- Take the lead, show initiative and ask: “Are you OK?”.
- Put the invitation out there: “I’ve got time to talk”.
- Maintain eye contact and sit in a relaxed position – positive body language will help you both feel more comfortable.
- Often just spending time with the person lets them know you care and can help you understand what they’re going through.
Tip 2: Practice your listening skills
- Listen to what a person is saying: be open-minded and non-judgmental – sometimes, when someone wants to talk, they’re not always seeking advice, but they just need to talk about their concerns
- Be patient: let the person take their time
- Avoid telling someone what to do: it is important to listen and try to help the other person work out what is best for them.
Tip 3: Be encouraging
- Encourage physical health: maintaining regular exercise, a nutritious diet and getting regular sleep helps to cope in tough times
- Encourage the person to seek professional help: from their family doctor, a support service or counsellor, or a mental health worker
- Encourage self-care: sometimes people need to be encouraged to do more to look after their own needs during a difficult time.
Tip 4: Be helpful
What not to do when trying to help someone. It is unhelpful to:
- Pressure them to “snap out of it”, “get their act together” or “cheer up”
- Stay away or avoid them
- Tell them they just need to stay busy or get out more
- Suggest alcohol or drugs
- Assume the problem will just go away.
It’s more helpful to:
- Listen to their concerns
- Acknowledge how they are feeling
- Let them know you care about their wellbeing
- Help them identify next steps for further support.
Want to start a conversation with a friend about their mental health but don’t know where to start? You’re not alone.
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