Helping others with mental health problems
There are lots of things you can do to support someone you know who might be struggling with their mental health.
You could help them with household chores, suggest doing an activity together or spend time just being with them.
Find out how you can support others, and why it can make a big difference, plus find out what you can do if they need more support.
Understanding how you might help someone
Many of us experience mental health problems at some time, so it’s likely we will know someone who will struggle with their mental health.
We can all feel anxious, stressed or low at times, but it can be a problem if these feelings get worse, go on for a long time or affect our daily lives.
It might take time for someone's mental health to improve, and some of us may need professional help, but there are ways to help and support someone to get back to positive mental health. We also have advice if you're looking after a child or a young person's mental health.
If you're worried about a work colleague or employee, or want to learn more about mental health support in the workplace, Mental Health at Work has relevant information and resources.
Ways you can help others
Tell them you're worried
This might be a good way to open up a conversation. It also shows you care about that person and have time for them – and that they do not have to avoid you.
Carry on as usual
Do what you usually do – behaving differently can make someone feel more isolated. Do not be afraid to offer kind words and a space to talk, whether by phone, messaging or in person.
The first time someone mentions their worries is a big step. It's good to recognise this and reassure them. Let them know you're there to listen when they need to talk.
Offer your time to listen
Listening is an important skill. Ask open questions that start with "how", "what", "where" or "when". This can help people open up. Get Listening tips from the Samaritans
Do not force it
Do not force someone to talk to you or get help, or go to a GP on their behalf, as it might make them feel uncomfortable. Gently explore their reasons and listen without judgement, as this might help them to work out what to do.
Look after yourself
It can be upsetting to hear someone you care about in distress. Be kind to yourself and take some time to relax or do something you enjoy. Check out our mental wellbeing tips.
Offer practical help
Little acts of kindness – like offering to do the shopping or to go to professional appointments with them – can help. Find out what works for them.
Why your support matters
You might worry that you do not know how to help, you'll say something wrong or make things worse, but the small things we say or do can make a big difference to someone.
Just telling them you see their struggle can be important help.
Someone might be afraid to let others know they are not coping, so being able to connect with others can be a relief.
Starting the conversation may be difficult, and it's normal to feel upset if someone you care about is struggling. But it can help to stay calm and assure them they do not have to deal with things alone.
You can also be there for them in other ways, like cooking for them, going for a walk or watching a film together. A chat may come more naturally if you are doing something together first.
Fear often stops us from talking about our mental health problems. We can break down these barriers and talk more openly when we know more about mental health problems and how common they are.
What to do if someone needs more help
If someone you know has mental health issues that are affecting their daily life, they may benefit from further support.
Tell them they have taken a vital first step by talking to you, and that it's now important they speak to someone.
Suggest they could:
- contact a GP
- get help from NHS 111
- refer themselves for free, non-urgent NHS talking therapy (covers most of England)
Charities, helplines and communities
The organisations listed here offer advice on how you can help others:
- Find support on the Hub of Hope
- Samaritans: If you're worried about someone else
- Mind: Helping someone else
- Rethink Mental Illness: Carers hub
- Movember has guidance on how to start conversations with men who are struggling
- Time to Change: Tips for talking about mental health
Urgent advice: Get urgent support now
If someone cannot wait to see a doctor and feels unable to cope or keep themselves safe, it's important they get urgent support now