Skip to main content

Helping others with mental health problems

If you know someone struggling with their mental health, there are lots of things you can do. Find out how you can help and support them.

We also have specific tips and expert advice to help them look after their mental health and wellbeing if they are worried or anxious about coronavirus (COVID-19).

Understanding how to help someone

About 1 in 4 people experience mental health problems each year, so most of us will know someone who has struggled 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.

If you know someone who is struggling to sleep or is having issues with their mental health, there are things you can do.

It can 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 get back to positive mental health.

We also have help and advice if you are worried about a child or young person.

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.

Top things you can do to help others

Express concern and say you can help

Letting someone know you're worried is a good way to open up a conversation – it shows you care about the person, have time for them and that they do not have to avoid things with you.

Act as you usually do together

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.

Reassure them

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.

Listening tips from Samaritans

Be patient

You will not always know the full story. There may be reasons why they have found it difficult to ask for help. Just being there can be helpful for someone who may want to open up later.

If they do not want support

Gently explore their reasons for not wanting to get support. If they are unsure whether to get help, just talking and listening without judgement could help work out what's getting in the way.

Do not force it

Do not force someone to talk to you or get help, and do not go to a doctor on their behalf. This may lead to them feeling uncomfortable, with less power and less able to speak for themselves.

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.

Find 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 helps

You might worry that you do not know the best way to help or will say something wrong and 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. People can be afraid to let others know they are not coping, but 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 prevents us from being open about our mental health difficulties. We can break down these barriers and talk more openly when we know more about mental health problems and how common they are.

When does someone need more help?

If someone's mental health problems 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 contact a GP or NHS 111, or that they refer themselves to their local IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) service. IAPT services cover most of England.

There are also organisations who can help them right now if they need urgent support.