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Supporting someone with a mental health issue

3-minute read

If someone you know is affected by a mental health issue, getting support from friends and family can make all the difference to how they cope and their recovery.

If your loved one is showing signs of a mental health problem or reaches out for help, the first step is to talk about it. Choose a good time and place to talk, when you are both relaxed, and keep the conversation flowing about other topics too. Try to be sensitive, positive and encouraging.

Let the person know you are there for them and available to listen. Acknowledge what they are feeling and ask them what you can do to help. You can start off by explaining why you’re concerned and offer examples. Try to use ‘I’ statements rather than ‘you’ statements — ‘I’m worried…’ or ‘I’ve noticed…’

Things you can do for the person

You could offer support by:

  • starting slowly — try small actions first, such as going for a walk or visiting a friend
  • encouraging them to get enough sleep, eat healthy food and exercise
  • discouraging them from self-medicating with alcohol or drugs
  • inviting them out, and encouraging other people in your lives to do so too
  • offering practical support, such as doing their shopping or cooking meals
  • encouraging them to seek help immediately if they are at risk of suicide or self-harm
  • providing information, such as books or brochures for them to read in their own time
  • offering to make an appointment with a doctor or mental health professional on their behalf, and offering to take them

Things you can do for yourself:

  • be informed — read quality, evidence-based information and become familiar with the signs and symptoms of their mental health issue
  • look after yourself — see your doctor or a mental health professional if you think it might help
  • accessing support services available to carers and friends of people with mental health issues
  • being proactive — find out the first steps to take

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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