What to say to someone with a mental health condition
It’s common to feel unsure about how to talk to someone with anxiety or depression, or to worry about saying the wrong thing.
We asked people who have experienced anxiety and depression to tell us what was most helpful to them.
Here are things you can say to help someone feel listened to, understood, and hopeful that things can improve.
“I’m here for you.”
Anxiety and depression can make people feel isolated and alone. It can really help to know someone will be there and stick by you during recovery.
“I can see this is a really hard time for you.”
Acknowledging the difficulties of anxiety and depression is one of the most helpful things you can do.
The least helpful statements are those that shut down the conversation. Don’t say:
- “I know how you feel”
- “Just snap out of it”
- “You’re attention seeking”
- “Think more positively”
- “You’ll be right”
- “Just get over it”.
“I’m not sure what to do, but I’m sure we can figure it out together.”
You don’t have to have the answers. What’s important is that you’re willing to stick around and help them figure out how to start feeling better.
“What can I do to help? Just tell me how.”
Ask them to be honest about how you can help them. The support they need will change throughout their recovery so be prepared to be flexible.
Sometimes they may be so overwhelmed that they won’t know how you can help. Taking initiative and doing small things to show you care can also help.
“I know it doesn’t feel like it now but there is hope that things can get better.”
Encourage hope. Remind them that anxiety and depression are treatable. With the right support, most people recover.
“Have you thought about seeing your doctor or calling Beyond Blue? There is support available.”
Highlight the importance of seeking professional support. Friends and family can offer a great deal of support but professionals have a crucial role in treating anxiety and depression and promoting recovery.
For information about how to find professional support, make an appointment and what to expect, visit: Support someone to see a mental health professional.
For free mental health information and brief counselling, contact the Beyond Blue Support Service.
“This conversation is between you and me.”
It’s important they know they can trust you. Respect their privacy where possible by not sharing what they tell you with anyone unless they say you can.
If someone tells you they’re having suicidal thoughts, you may need to call in extra help. Let them know you may need to tell someone else to be able to help them stay safe. For more information, visit:
Worried about someone suicidal.
“I'm sorry if I said the wrong thing. Can we start again?”
You’re both trying to talk through a difficult experience. Don’t worry if you say the wrong thing. Focus on what’s more important in the conversation.
“I’ve noticed you seem to be doing better lately. Is that how it feels for you?”
Sometimes improvements can be hard to notice, particularly if they are small and gradual. Gently pointing out your observations can help someone feel positive about getting better.
“Do you feel like doing something together to help take your mind off things?”
You don’t need to talk about how they’re feeling all the time. Doing something you both enjoy can help people with anxiety and depression:
- change the focus of their negative thinking
- offer a sense of hope for the future.