Health and wellbeing blogs

Step one – say you need to talk

A person’s mental health can be a topic that is difficult to address. Especially when that person is someone that you care about, and you need to discuss it with them directly. Clinical Psychologist Ian Smith explains how you can talk to your loved one about your concerns.

Starting the conversation

This does not have to be a formal process. Something as simple as “I haven’t seen much of you lately, how are things?” might be enough to open the line of communication.

Once the conversation gets going, there is no need for you to do anything, except listen.

It may be the first opportunity your loved one has had to speak openly about their feelings.

You may like to repeat what they have said back to them as this ensures you fully understand and demonstrates you are listening to what they have to say.

St John of God Health Care mental health

If you can, ask open questions such as, “how do you feel about that?” or “why do you think that is?” to keep the conversation flowing and allow them to open up further if they wish.

Remember this conversation is not about you, so do not interrupt or try to resolve the problems for them.

You can tell your loved one how worried you are about them, but only if there is an obvious opportunity to do so.

Try not to judge, and if there is something that your loved one chooses not to discuss with you, let it go.

How can I solve their problem?

Sadly, you cannot. But do not worry - often just the opportunity to talk is enough.

Just let them know that you support them now, and will continue to do so for as long as they need you to.

If your loved one wants it, you might like to help them find further help or to make an appointment with their general practitioner.

What happens next? 

Be sure to follow up with your loved one in the weeks after your chat to see how they are going.

You can ask how things are progressing, but if there has not been any progress yet, be supportive and do not put them down or tell them off.

Let them know that you are still there if they need you.