How to talk to someone you're worried about

Talking to someone you’re worried about may make all the difference. You can help them feel less alone and more supported.

Ask if they’re okay, listen to what they tell you and support them to get the help they need.

On this page we have tips and conversation starters to help you.

An illustration of two women having a supportive conversation

Ask if they're okay

Simply asking how someone is going is a great way to start the conversation. Explain the differences you’ve notices and ask them if they’re OK.

Be genuine

Raise the topic in a way that feels comfortable to you. There’s 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’re concerned

What have your notices that’s worried you? Maybe their mood has changed or they’ve been acting differently.

“You haven’t seemed yourself lately - is everything OK?”

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


Be prepared to wait

They may not want to talk about their mental health yet. Don’t pressure them. By noticing and saying something, you’ve shown you care and are willing to have the conversation when they’re ready.

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

Focus instead on staying in touch and doing things together that might make them feel less alone. Look for opportunities to talk about it again later.

Suggest other people they might prefer to talk to, such as a friend who has experiences anxiety or depression, or a confidential helpline.

Listen to what they tell you

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

“Just take your time, there’s no rush. I know talking about this can be difficult.”

Take your time

Take time to try to understand their experience of feeling anxious or depressed. Everyone’s experience is unique. Recognise and validate how they’re feeling.

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

Don’t give advice

It’s natural to want to solve the problem to make them feel better. However, the most helpful thing you can do is listen. It's important to give them space to talk and feel heard. Try to avoid making assumptions or offering solutions, advice or a diagnosis.

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

Be comfortable with silence

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

“What’s that like for you?”

Don’t judge

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.

“Can I just check that I have understood you correctly?”

Support them to get the help they need


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

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


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

“You don’t have to deal with this on your own. I’m here for you. Things can get better.”


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

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

It can take time for people to be ready to talk to you or a mental health professional. Don’t make your support conditional on them seeing a health professional.

Discuss with the person what the barriers are for them and how you can help.

Respect their decision. Reassure them that they’re not alone and remind them that professional support is available.

Explore options

Help them explore their options for feeling better. Check your understanding of the situation and what you might be able to do to help.

“What can I do to support you?”

“What have you tried already? Have you thought about seeing your doctor or Beyond Blue?”

We have resources to support you:

  • Check your mental health – supporting someone to complete one of our simple assessment tools may help you understand the support they need.
  • Support someone to see a mental health professional - what to say, how to make an appointment and what to expect.
  • Get mental health support – talk or chat online to our free brief counselling service or find a mental health professional near you.

  • If the person is feeling suicidal

    It’s okay to ask someone if they’re thinking of suicide - the best way to find out is to ask. Asking someone if they're thinking about suicide won't 'put ideas in their head'. Your friend or loved one is more likely to feel relieved at being heard and understood.

    For resources to help you talk to someone about suicide visit: Worried about someone suicidal.

    If they’re in immediate danger of taking their own life:

  • call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance

  • call or chat online to Lifeline (13 11 14) or Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467) - free, confidential 24/7 counselling services. No problem is too big or small.
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Talking to a young person

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.

Give them reassurance and hope

If a young person has anxiety or depression, it will probably affect the way they think about things.

They’re more likely to approach situations negatively, believing nothing much can change or that things are hopeless. Anxiety can also get in the way of finding solutions. They may need:

  • encouragement to explore options for help
  • reassurance that things will be OK

  • to focus on small steps and achievements.

Don’t tell them to ‘snap out of it’

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.

Offer emotional and practical support

Ask they how they want to be supported and suggest a few options:

  • emotional support - being available to listen, offering reassurance

  • practical support - help with homework or getting to a part time job.

Recovery is possible, but it can be a slow process.

Youth mental health services and support

Seek support from trusted friends or relatives, or talk to a counsellor about ways to cope and support the young person in your life.

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.

  • Kids Helpline – 24/7 counselling for kids, teens and young adults aged between 5 and 25.
  • headspace – mental health support for young people. Offering phone, chat and online community support.
  • ReachOut – mental health service for young people and their parents. Offering self-help information, peer-support program and referral tools.

Support for educators

If you work with young people in early learning services and schools, there are resources available.

  • Be You – find professional learning, tools and fact sheets to support your knowledge of mental health.

Talking to someone at work

There are many factors when working that can cause stress and lead to poor mental health. And if someone’s mental health is being impacted for reasons outside work, it can affect them when working too. This is natural.

So if you notice someone at work who might be unsettled, facing stressful challenges, or struggling with their mental health, it’s worth checking in with them.

Before you do, there are things you can do to prepare.

Learn what support is available

Find out what support is available so you can share this information with them and encourage them to reach out.

Available supports will be different in every workplace. They might include an Employee Assistance Program. Your work might have a Health and Safety Representative who can help if you need to report any risks at work, or if someone is being bullied or harassed. Or there may be peer support network be in place.

Also keep in mind free and confidential support options are available to them outside of work.

Plan the conversation

Think about when and where you can have a chat. Ideally it will be somewhere private, and where you both feel comfortable.

Learn more about mental health at work

Work is a key setting to help:

  • respond to mental health challenges
  • protect mental health
  • promote wellbeing.

Look after your own mental health and wellbeing

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

Discover how you can improve your wellbeing with the Wellbeing Action Tool.

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