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Supporting Mental Health: Here’s How to Start the Conversation

Are you concerned about someone’s mental health and unsure how to approach the subject? Starting a conversation about mental health can be daunting, but it’s crucial to offer support and connect them with appropriate resources such as a mental health care plan. This guide provides detailed steps and tips on how to initiate this conversation and provide information about mental health organisations in Australia.  

Educate Yourself About Mental Health

Before initiating a conversation about mental health, it’s crucial to educate yourself on the topic. Understanding mental health, recognising signs and symptoms, and being aware of the stigma associated with mental health issues can help you approach the conversation with empathy.  

Familiarise yourself with resources and organisations that can provide further support. Organisations such as Beyond Blue, Lifeline Australia, SANE Australia, and Headspace offer valuable resources and support for mental health issues. Remember, the goal is not to diagnose or provide therapy, but to express concern, offer support, and guide them towards professional help if needed.  

Choose the Right Time and Place to Discuss their Mental Health

Consider a setting that is quiet, comfortable, and relaxed, where you can chat without interruptions or distractions. Ideally, this should be a familiar place where the person feels at ease. Perhaps a peaceful walk in a park or along the beach, a casual lunch catch-up or even a leisurely drive. Engaging in a shared activity that they enjoy, such as playing a sport or going hiking, could also be a good option. This approach allows the conversation to flow naturally, without the entire focus being on them.  

Express Your Concerns About their Mental Health with Empathy

Begin the conversation by expressing your concern for their well-being. Use empathetic language to let them know you care about their mental health. It’s important to be genuine and sincere in your approach. Remember to use “I” statements to express your feelings, such as “I’ve noticed you’ve been feeling down lately” instead of “You’ve been acting strange.”  

To guide the conversation, consider using these phrases:  

“I’ve noticed you don’t seem yourself lately. Would you like to talk about what’s going on?” 

“I’m here for you. Can you tell me about what’s going on?” 

“Is there something on your mind you’d like to chat about?” 

“I’ve noticed you haven’t been going out lately, is there anything you’d like to talk about?” 

Be a Good Listener  

Encourage them to express their feelings and experiences. Be an active listener without any judgment. Demonstrate that you’re there to listen and understand, not to judge or provide solutions. Remember, sometimes people just need someone to vent to.  

Use Open-Ended Questions

Ask open-ended questions that invite them to share more about how they’re feeling. For example, “Can you tell me what’s been on your mind lately?”. These types of questions can help them open up about their experiences.  

Consider asking these additional open-ended questions:  

“How have you been feeling about everything lately?” 

“What’s been the most challenging part for you?” 

“Can you help me understand what you’re going through?” 

“What’s been keeping you up at night?” 

“How have these experiences been affecting you?” 

Avoid Making Assumptions

Avoid making assumptions about their feelings or experiences. Let them share their thoughts and emotions in their own words. It’s essential to respect their perspective and validate their feelings.  

Offer Reassurance

Let them know that it’s okay to feel the way they do and that they are not alone in their struggles. Reassure them that many people experience similar challenges, and that help is available. You could also recommend telehealth mental health care plans, which are conveniently accessible from the comfort of their own home.  

Share Mental Health Resources Gently

If the person is open to it, gently share information about mental health organisations and resources. Let them know that these organisations offer support, counselling, and information about mental health. 

Encourage Help from a Mental Health Professional

If the person’s mental health appears to be severely affected, encourage them to seek professional help. Offer to assist with finding a mental health professional or making an appointment. Some services, like ours, are bulk-billed – meaning there is no cost to them, to talk to a mental health trained doctor about how they’re feeling.  

Did you know?  

Under the Australian government’s mental health initiative, you or your loved ones can access Medicare rebates on mental health services – like psychology – by speaking to a GP about a Mental Health Care Plan (MHCP), also known as a Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTP). With a valid Medicare card, MHCP assessments are bulk-billed, and 10 counselling or therapy sessions per year can also be Medicare subsidised – lowering the cost of treatment.  

Respect Their Choices

Respecting their choices is vital in their mental health journey. Each person’s experience is unique, and their decisions should be acknowledged as their own. While you can offer support and advice, the final decision is theirs. Show support for their decisions, even if you disagree, to help them feel validated and understood. 

Offer Support

Offering support is crucial when assisting someone with their mental health. Assure them that they’re not alone and you’re there to support them throughout their journey. Regular check-ins can demonstrate your concern for their well-being, even a simple inquiry about their day can make a difference. Maintain positivity during your interactions to instil hope. Remember, your support can significantly impact their mental health journey.  

Follow Up

After the initial conversation, following up is an important part of supporting someone’s mental health journey, demonstrating your genuine care and commitment. Maintain regular contact through phone calls, text messages, or face-to-face conversations, and ask about their well-being. Celebrate their progress, no matter how small, to boost their confidence and motivation. Reiterate your support, providing them with a sense of security and comfort.

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