Woman looking sad

10 ways to ask someone about their mental health

Close to half of us will experience a mental health condition during our lifetime[1] and an estimated 3 million of us have depression or anxiety[2].

It’s a fact that anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions are commonplace. In northern Queensland especially, the environment we live in can really test our resolve with things like the challenges of living in isolation, the state of the rural and mining economy, floods, drought and bushfires, and more.


Talking about it helps

People’s understanding of how mental health is managed has improved dramatically over the years. We accept as normal the idea that something as simple as reaching out and “talking about it” is a great way to help someone improve their wellbeing and deal with their worries and mental health concerns.

Many of those who have embraced talking about mental health have seen the benefit. It may be in the form of improvements in their own wellbeing as a result of talking about their concerns, or it may be in the form of noticing improvements in others by listening to their concerns.

Even so, not everyone with a mental health condition is ready to talk about it. Maybe they’ve just never considered it, or perhaps they don’t realise it’s something they should talk about.

So where do you start?


How to talk to someone about it

Say you’ve decided that it’s time to start a conversation with a friend or family member about their mental health. It might be that something has happened in their life and it’s affecting them deeply, be it separation, job loss or work stress, a family member passing away or something else. You’ve noticed that they’ve been feeling down for quite some time. Maybe they’ve been withdrawn or you’re sensing that they’re bottling it up. Or perhaps they’re drinking more than they should or they’re not looking after themselves?

If someone’s life is in danger, call 000. But otherwise, it’s understandable that you might not know where to start. It’s normal to be nervous about how the conversation will go so to help you, here are 10 ways to help someone open up about mental health concerns like depression and anxiety.


10 ways to help someone open up about their mental health

1) Start with a simple question like “I’ve noticed you’re quiet recently, is everything OK?” or “I haven’t seen you at footy training, how are you going?”

2) Allow them to finish their sentences and thoughts without interrupting.

3) Listen and take the time to understand what they are going through.

4) Repeat back what they’ve said in your own words, to make sure you understand their experience. “So what you’re saying is, this has happened and this is how you’re feeling.”

5) Then, ask questions like “How long have you been feeling this way?” and “How can I support you?”

6) Don’t judge their situation or feelings. Take what they say seriously.

7) Don’t diminish or belittle what they’re telling you. Don’t say, “It’s probably nothing.”

8) If you have a similar story to tell, let them know about it and that you understand. But don’t hijack the conversation and make it about you.

9) If they’ve been feeling down for over two weeks, encourage them to seek professional help. You can assist them to find the right support.

10) By having a conversation, you’re letting the person know that they are not alone. Tell them that you are there for them and they can talk to you again.


Need help? You can find support services in northern Queensland or complete a self-administered K10 test for depression and anxiety. You can also join the online social and mental health forum to talk with like-minded people.


[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007. Cat. no. (4326.0). Canberra: ABS.

[2] Ibid