Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Dos and Don'ts of discussing mental health issues

2-minute read

You may find it difficult talking to someone with a mental health issue, but knowing the basic Dos and Don'ts can really help.

We often avoid discussing mental health because of fear, stigma or simply not knowing what to say. But this may make matters worse. Support from friends, family and health professionals plays a significant role in a loved one’s coping and recovery process. You can make a big difference through small gestures, like listening, keeping in touch and showing you care.

Many of us worry about saying the wrong thing to someone with a mental illness. Your friend or loved one may or may not want to discuss their mental health issues with you, but it’s important they know they don’t have to avoid the subject.

It’s not always easy to tell if someone has a mental illness. It’s important to raise your concerns with them, even though they might deny the problem and be reluctant or refuse to get help. They may react with anger, shame or embarrassment.

If someone you care about is in danger of harming themselves or someone else, call triple zero (000) immediately. There are also a number of helplines and crisis support services that may help.

Where to get help

If someone needs help, talking to a doctor is a good place to start. To find out more, or if they would like to talk to someone else, here are some organisations that can help:

  • SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness) – call 1800 187 263.
  • beyondblue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) – call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.
  • Black Dog Institute (people affected by mood disorders) – online help.
  • Lifeline (anyone having a personal crisis) – call 13 11 14 or chat online.
  • Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) – call 1300 659 467.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2018


Back To Top

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Talking about mental health and parenthood

Mental health is something many new and expecting parents are afraid to discuss, but it’s important to be able to talk about it during pregnancy. Learn why here.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

How to talk to young children about mental health | Queensland Health

Talking to children about mental wellbeing and health from a young age can help them understand their emotions, develop resilience and reduce stigma about mental illness.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Concerned about someone? - COPE

Centre of Perinatal Excellence

Read more on COPE - Centre of Perinatal Excellence website

Being there to reduce mental health and alcohol problems - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Who do you talk with when youre about to make a big decision? Its all about trust.Trust makes relationships work: it helps people start a family, buy a house together, or begin a new life overseas.Trusting relationships are also formed in our local community.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Cognitive behavioural therapy | Professional help | ReachOut Australia

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy used to address different kinds of mental health issues.

Read more on ReachOut.com website

Social workers, children & families | Raising Children Network

A social worker can help you or your child with mental health and wellbeing, relationships, family and parenting issues, or alcohol and other drug use.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

How to support someone | Head to Health

It can be hard seeing someone you care about experience mental health issues. Sometimes, just being there can make a difference. However you choose to support them, there are many resources available to help you get started.

Read more on Head to Health website

Supporting friends | Head to Health

Friends play a key role in helping us cope with life’s challenges. When someone is living with mental health issues, having a friend around to provide comfort and support can make all the difference.

Read more on Head to Health website

Coping Kit Instructions

Coping Kit Instructions Print the blank form and talk to someone you trust to help you fill out the kit If you find your strategies dont work thats OK: If you feel you cant cope contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 When youre feeling better, think about what didnt work and why you might need to change some of your strategies Try having a few different strategies to help you cope with different circumstances Download Blank Coping Kit Download Blank Wallet Card Other Services Headspace Head to Health Mental health support and resources Moodgym Free self-help program to teach cognitive behaviour therapy skills to people vulnerable to depression and anxiety ReachOut Mental health information for young people SANE Australia Information and resources on a range of mental health problems and related issues

Read more on Lifeline website

Supporting yourself - culturally and linguistically diverse people | Head to Health

Australia is culturally diverse. If you come from a different cultural background or speak a different language, you are not alone. Specialised support can help people from CALD backgrounds stay healthy and get help with mental health issues.

Read more on Head to Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo