Talking to someone you are worried about

A conversation can make a difference in helping someone feel less alone and more supported in recovering from anxiety and depression. Don’t underestimate the importance of just ‘being there’.

Here are some tips to help you have the conversation.


Ask



You haven’t seemed yourself lately – is everything OK?

Don't hesitate to talk to someone you are worried about. Your support may make all the difference.

I've noticed that you're not going out much with us at the moment, what’s going on?

Raise the topic in a way that feels comfortable to you. There is no right or wrong way to say that you’re concerned. Just be genuine. 

Would you like to talk with me about what’s happened? I’m worried about you.

Explain why you are concerned. What have you noticed that has left you feeling worried about them? (their mood, the way they have been acting).

OK, but you know you can talk to me if you ever need to.


They may not want to talk about it yet, but at least they know you care and are willing to have the conversation when they’re ready.

Listen


Just take your time, there is no rush. I know talking about this can be difficult.

Encourage them to talk about what’s going on (how they feel, what they’re thinking, what they’re doing differently).

I can hear that the last few months have been really terrible for you. Please tell me more about it.

Take time to try to understand their experience of anxiety or depression. Everyone’s experience is unique. Recognise and validate how they are feeling.

How are you feeling about that? How’s that affecting you?

Resist the temptation to offer solutions, give advice, make assumptions or diagnose their problem. The most helpful thing you can do is listen.

What’s that like for you?

Help them to feel at ease and follow their lead. A silence may make you feel uncomfortable at first but see it as a chance for you both to gather your thoughts.

Can I just check that I have understood you correctly?

Be non-judgmental if they share things that are hard to hear or you don’t understand. Together you can work out how to move forward.

Support



I know it can be hard to talk about this – thanks for trusting me with it.

Keep what they tell you private (unless they’re at risk of hurting themselves or someone else).

Don’t think you have to deal with this on your own. I’m here for you. Things can get better.

Reassure them they are not alone and there is hope that things can get better.

I want to help but I don’t want to interfere, so tell me when I am getting in the way.

Be patient, help them to overcome any setbacks, and point out any improvements you see.

What can I do to support you?

Check your understanding of the situation and what you might be able to do to help.

What have you tried already? Have you thought about seeing your doctor or beyondblue?

Help them explore their options for feeling better. You could suggest they contact their doctor or the beyondblue Support Service.


When you are supporting someone with anxiety or depression it can become overwhelming so remember to look after yourself too, and seek support when you need it.

What if they deny there is a problem or don’t want to talk

Accept that they might not be ready to talk. Tell them you’re someone they can talk to if they ever need to.  Instead of talking about the issue, focus instead on staying in touch and doing things together that might make them feel less alone.  If you’re still concerned over time, look for opportunities when they might be more receptive to the conversation. You could also suggest other people that they may prefer to talk to, such as a friend who has experienced anxiety or depression, or a confidential helpline.

Remember, you don’t want them to feel pressured and it’s their personal choice to talk about it or not.

What if they won’t see a professional?

Try to understand that it can take time for people to be ready to talk to a professional. You may not agree but respect their decision. Reassure them that they are not alone and plant the seed that professional support is available when they are ready. Discuss with the person what the barriers are for them, and whether there is any way you can help, such as taking them to the appointment, or finding a health professional they click with. Keep in touch. 

Don’t make your support conditional on them seeing a health professional.

What if they are thinking of suicide?

If you are unsure whether someone is thinking about suicide, the best way to find out is to ask. Learn how to have a conversation about suicide or visit the Conversations Matter website to find more resources for discussing suicide. If the situation is urgent and they are in immediate danger, do not leave them alone (unless you are concerned for your own safety). 

Call the person’s doctor, a mental health crisis service, or emergency services (dial 000). For further advice and support, contact the beyondblue Support Service (1300 22 4636), Lifeline (13 11 14) or the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467).