People are getting better at asking each other, are you okay? They know to listen without judgement and encourage others to seek professional support if they need it. But for a million reasons, these conversations don’t always go smoothly. Sometimes people don’t want to talk about how they feel, or they’re too embarrassed, or they don’t believe talking to a professional could make things better.

It’s important to remember that people are in charge of their own life. So be patient and present until they’re ready to talk. But it’s also hard to see someone you care about going through a tough time.

So, what do you do when you’ve raised your concerns but your loved one chooses not to seek support?

There’s no magic spell that will get them talking but here are some ideas that might help nudge them towards the support they need:

  • Be vulnerable yourself. You don’t want to make the conversation about you, but sharing some of your own hard times can make it easier for them to do the same.
  • Talk about life, not diagnoses. It’s not your job to diagnose their symptoms. But helping them understand the impact the symptoms are having on their life can build motivation to change things. Help them see that life doesn’t have to be this hard. Help them imagine an easier future.
  • Ask them, “How bad do things have to get?” If they’ve acknowledged there’s an issue, asking how bad things need to be before they take action can start a different kind of conversation. What would their life look like at that point? And what would be the benefits of doing something sooner.

A couple sits on a riverbank looking over the water

  • Say, “If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for me”. Sometimes people don’t seek support because they have such a low opinion of themselves they don’t believe they deserve the support. Pointing out how invested you are in their wellness can help.
  • Mix it up. If your approach isn’t working, try changing your communication style. If you’re usually firm, try being softer. If you’re normally more sensitive, try a direct approach.
  • Be humble. Is someone else better placed to have this conversation? Who might your friend be more inclined to talk to?
  • Play the long game. It can take many conversations, over time, until someone is ready to open up. Without pressuring, be consistent and persistent.
  • Stay connected anyway. Don’t make your friendship conditional on them seeking support.

These tactics simply communicate that you care enough that you’ll do whatever it takes to get them support. And for someone with depression or anxiety, showing them you care is probably the most powerful thing you can do to support them.

Related reading: 10 ways to be there for someone you're worried about

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