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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

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