Talking to a young person

Are you worried about a young person and not sure what to say? Do you worry that you might make things worse? You want to help them, but not sure how? 

It all starts with a conversation.

Even if you aren't sure quite what to say, the important thing is that you say something. Let them know that you are concerned and why. They may be experiencing anxiety or depression, or they might be struggling with suicidal thoughts. By starting a conversation and showing your concern and willingness to support them, you’re giving them an opportunity to share what they are going through. This can make all the difference in ensuring they get any support they might need. 

How to talk about it

What to say

What to do

Things to remember

  • A young person may find it uncomfortable discussing their thoughts and emotions openly with you. They may even get angry when you ask if they’re OK. Try to stay calm, and realise you may need to try raise the conversation in different ways over time to get a response. 
  • If a young person doesn’t want to talk to you about his or her problems, try not to take it personally.
  • If a young person has anxiety or depression, it will probably affect the way they think about things. They are more likely to approach situations negatively, believing nothing much can change or that things are hopeless. Being terribly anxious and worried can also get in the way of finding solutions. If the young person feels this way, they may need: 
    • encouragement to explore options for help
    • reassurance that things will be OK
    • to focus on small steps and achievements.
  • When young people have anxiety or depression, it doesn’t help to pressure them to ‘snap out of it’. You can’t assume that the problem will go away without help. You won’t always have the answers, and you may say the wrong thing at times – but simply showing you care and will be there to help them through this is what matters. 
  • Young people who resist seeing a doctor or a health professional may prefer to contact a professional over the phone or online, as this is anonymous and can be less confronting. 
  • Take their lead by asking how they would like to be supported. It might help to suggest a few options; some that support them emotionally (being available to listen, offering reassurance), others that offer practical help (help with homework or getting to a part time job). 
  • Recovery is possible, but it can be a slow process.
  • Seek support from trusted friends or relatives, or talk to a counsellor about ways to cope and support your child.
  • If you think that a young person is thinking about suicide, you need to talk about it.