Having those difficult conversations

Updated: Aug 5, 2018

I know I have been there and often still do have difficulties talk about my own mental health especially to those that are the closest to me.

Sometimes though it is those that have been through it or those closest to you maybe able to spot something not 100% right - but they struggle to know how to start 'the' conversation.

Where to start?

Often those who want to talk just want someone to ask them how they are first or say something just to get the ball rolling.

If someone does start talking to you repeat/paraphrase what they have said to show understanding and you were listening - this can then lead to more questions.

You don't need to solve anything but focus on what they are saying/expressing with their feelings. No one person has all the solutions, but recognition of feelings and emotions is a great start.

You also don't need to give advice on their situation - remember what we went through maybe similar but everyones situation is unique to them. Tell them what you did and how it made you feel, but ultimately they have to decide what to do.

Right time, right place.

Yes there will never really be the right time or place, but having a situation where the person feels comfortable to talk and express will definitely help. Having enough time will be key to, but letting a person know the limits of your time if you need to especially if you have to be somewhere else at a set time.

Gentle and open questions

Don't go in strong and bombard with loads of questions or tell them. Try using open questions that allow the person to answer more and doesn't limit people to one or two word answers.

  • When – 'When did you realise?'

  • Where – 'Where did that happen?'

  • What – 'What else happened?'

  • How – 'How did that feel?'

  • Why – be careful with this one as it can make someone defensive. ‘What made you choose that’ or ‘What were you thinking about at the time’ are more effective.

Getting help

Knowing where to get help or sign posting can be a real lifesaver - asking if they would like to someone about how they are feeling and offering support with sign posting. The Samaritan have a 24/7 service with trained people ready to talk - you can get call from them on 116 123. Other services can be sourced via GP services including talking therapies, medication and much more.

What if I say something wrong?

We are human and no one is perfect - you may do exactly that say something that you think is wrong - don't beat yourself up over it. Just next time you see them let them know what you are thinking or if you were insensitive and explain what you really meant.

Looking after yourself too

When you support someone you often forget to look after ourselves - you too may feel the need to talk to someone. If you do remember what you spoke with the other person is confidential and personal so remove information if you need to.

Don't promise anything you can not actually do or deliver as this could impact how both people feel and how they respond.

Look after yourself, like you would look after someone else.


Based upon information taken from: Samaritans -

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