Five questions to help a friend, work colleague or loved one talk about their mental health

Mental health can be a tough topic to talk about with a friend, work colleague or loved one. But the costs of ignoring a potential mental health issue can have far greater consequences.

Here are some questions that may help you to start a conversation with someone about mental health.

1. How are you? / Are you okay?

"How are you?" is often met with the response "I'm good thanks" and that's it. Sometimes this question invites no response at all.

You can show you care about someone's response by stopping what you are doing, giving eye contact and demonstrating, through your body language, that you are interested in what they have to say.

You don't need to be an expert to connect with someone. A genuine willingness to listen and appropriate body language is all you need.

2. How are your stress levels lately?

Asking someone about the stress in their life may help to start a conversation about mental health. You could start a conversation by saying what you have noticed about your friend, workmate or loved one's behaviour lately. For example, "You seem really stressed since you started back at work. How are you?"

3. Would you like to talk?

Sometimes a friend, work colleague or loved one may need reassurance that it's okay to talk through an important issue. Asking them if they would like to talk shows that you care and are willing to listen.

If someone doesn't want to talk, that is okay too. You can let them know you're there if they need. They may come back to you later when they feel ready.

4. What can I do to help?

Sometimes engaging in a practical activity may help someone to feel comfortable opening up. For example, offering to go for a drive, helping out in the kitchen or completing a DIY task together may create an environment where a person feels more comfortable opening up.

5. Introducing the idea of professional help

Your friend, work colleague or loved one may be unsure about seeking professional help, but sometimes professional help is important to assist a person to work through mental health issues.

Psychological support is available online at Net Psychology. Your friend, work colleague or loved one may choose to visit the website to see if it is right for them.

Making a booking is as simple as visiting the website, finding an available session time that suits you, and confirming and paying for the booking. You can book online here.

Please note Net Psychology is not a crisis service. If you or someone else needs urgent support please call the below crisis numbers. If it is an emergency, call 000.

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

MATES in Construction: 1300 642 111

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800

MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78

1800 RESPECT: 1800 737 732

National Indigenous Critical Response Service: 1800 805 801 

National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline: 1800 250 015

This blog post is inspired by R U OK? For more information on the organisation, mission, values and goals, please visit their website.