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How can I support someone?

If you’re concerned about someone’s mental health, it can be difficult to know what to do. Here are a few tips from beyondblue on supporting someone with depression or anxiety:

Initiate talk and listen to what they’re saying. Sometimes, when a person wants to talk, they’re not always seeking advice, but just need to talk about their concerns. Make it clear they have your full attention and you are listening properly. You may like to save any suggestions for a later discussion.

Use appropriate body language. Maintain eye contact and sit in a relaxed position. Positive body language will help you both feel more comfortable.

Use open-ended questions such as ‘So tell me about...?’ which require more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. This is often a good way to start a conversation.

If your conversation becomes difficult or the person you’re talking to gets angry, remember to stay calm.  Be firm, fair and consistent. Admit if you are wrong and don’t lose control.

Just spending time with the person lets them know you care and can help you understand what they’re going through.

Take care of yourself. Supporting someone with mental illness can be demanding, so make sure you take some time out to look after yourself.

It’s unhelpful to do the following:

  • Pressure them to ‘snap out of it’, ‘get their act together’, ‘cheer up’ or ‘calm down’
  • Stay away or avoid them
  • Tell them they just need to stay busy or get out more
  • Pressure them to party more or wipe out how they’re feeling with drugs or alcohol
  • Assume the problem will just go away.

Encourage seeking professional help. Encourage the person to seek professional help from their family doctor or a mental health worker and offer to go with them. You can find more information about where and how to seek help here.

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