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Four things to consider when chatting about a loved one’s emotional wellbeing

If you have concerns about the mental health of someone you care about, it is important to speak up. Clinical Psychologist Ian Smith shares his top tips for broaching the topic of mental health with your loved ones. 

When you are worried about a loved one’s emotional wellbeing, it can be hard to know what to do.

Sometimes the person you are concerned about may not realise they have a problem, while others may not be ready to face the reality.

It is important to speak up if you are concerned, but you should be considerate of your loved one’s needs.

St John of God Health Care mental health

Four things to consider

1. Make sure you are ready

If you are planning to speak to someone you love about their emotional wellbeing, you must be prepared to take on information that could be confronting or upsetting. If you think this could be a problem for you, seek the advice of a professional to help you deal with or prepare for what you may learn.

Just because you ask, does not mean you are the right person for the conversation.

Your loved one may not be comfortable talking about this with you. Do not take it personally. Suggest they find someone else to speak with.

Similarly, they may not be ready to face this yet. So give them space, but check in with them later and see how they are going.

2. Be open and honest

It is OK to tell your loved one how concerned you are about them and how their behaviour is making you feel.

In doing so, you can also tell them if you would like them to seek help. However, know that what they choose to do with this information is up to them.

3. Support without judgement

Once you offer, it is vital that you follow through with giving support.

Let your loved one know that you are always available and then make sure you are.

You may like to offer to assist them find professional help and attend the appointments for moral support. Let their preferences guide you here.

When they are ready to talk, just listen. Often they are not looking for a solution so do not feel the need to fix them.

It takes courage for your loved one to open up so do not judge them for what they might say.

4. Choose your moment carefully

When beginning the conversation, make sure you are in an area which is private enough for your loved one to feel comfortable to open up. It should be somewhere you can stay for an extended period and not be disturbed.

Approach the subject at an appropriate time (i.e. not as your walking to the car or about to order dinner) and ensure that your loved one is in a good condition to talk.