Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Positive mental health allows people to:
- Realize their full potential.
- Cope with the stresses of life.
- Work productively.
- Make meaningful contributions to their communities.
Start the conversation
When it comes to mental health, what we say — and how we listen — matters. Here is advice on how to help someone open up about their mental health.
Listening attentively involves your full focus and consideration. What is the person telling you? What’s their body language tell you? Think back to a time you truly felt like someone was listening to you, and how you felt. Emulate that.
Listen well so you can absorb what they’re saying, and refer back to something they said later on. This not only shows you’re listening, but that you care about the person and what they’ve shared with you.
Make sure to put away all distractions (phone, games, etc.) and face the person you’re speaking with. Look at them as they talk to you. Nod your head in understanding when appropriate, and gently inquire about something they brought up.
Ask open-ended questions
Make sure the conversation is not full of questions the other person can answer with a simple yes or no. Instead, open up a space for understanding by asking open-ended questions like:
- How have you been feeling lately?
- What have you been doing to cope?
- What do you want to do about that?
You can also express your concern and encourage the person to talk about what’s going on by offering caring statements like:
You seem to be a bit quiet these days. What’s been on your mind?
Don’t assume or make judgments
Opening up and reaching out for help can be difficult. If you make assumptions and judgments in response, it can make it even harder for people to express themselves.
Refrain from assuming how a person feels, what they need, or what’s going on with them. Instead, ask gently for clarification when you need some.
If your friend or loved one tells you things that make you uneasy, or that you might not agree with, such as how they’ve been coping with their feelings, or negative perceptions they have of themselves, do your best to set aside all judgment.
Expressing warm-hearted concern and offering support should always be the aim.
Find a way to help or get help
Sometimes, you might be able to directly help the person you’re concerned about. Maybe all they needed was to vent, or have someone to talk to and help sort out their feelings. For some people, it might be helpful to send them positive text messages throughout the week, whenever you get the chance.
But there are some cases in which the ways you can help are limited. If your friend is suicidal, for example, then it’s time to get help from those more equipped to handle the situation at hand.
Ask your friend or loved one if they want to get help, and offer them the resources to do so. Assure them there’s nothing wrong with getting the help they need and that by doing so, they’ve taken the first step to feeling better. Sometimes, just hearing this will help lift some weight off of how they’re feeling.
Offering to take your friend loved one to these helpful spaces, or to find the proper assistance, can go a long way.
Be a safe person
Join the "Safe Person" campaign! Let others know that you want to offer a non-judgmental listening ear and effective support when able. "Safe Person" campaign members commit to uphold seven promises.
Mental health concerns are common and treatable. Help is available. Call 211 to learn about services and supports in your community. Call 911 if you are experiencing a life threatening emergency.