Blog | Insights

Supporting mental health: top tips for helping others and what to avoid

For most of us, the urge to help when someone is struggling is instinctual. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or colleague facing challenges, we naturally want to offer support. However, navigating conversations around mental health can be delicate. While our intentions may be good, our actions can sometimes have unintended consequences.

Here are some valuable insights into how we can be supportive and what to avoid when it comes to other people’s mental health:

10 ways to help

1. Express your concern

Starting the conversation by expressing your worry can provide the opening someone needs to share their feelings.

2. Offer your time and patience

Simply letting someone know you’re available to listen, without pressure, can be a tremendous relief.

3. Be an active listener

Listening without judgement and reflecting back what they’ve said shows that you understand and care.

4. Carry on as usual

Maintaining normalcy in your interactions can prevent the person from feeling isolated or responsible for your change in behaviour.

5. Reassure

Acknowledge their trust in confiding in you and reassure them that you’re there for them when they’re ready to talk more.

6. Ask open questions

Encourage them to share by asking open-ended questions that invite deeper conversation.

7. Be kind

Offer practical assistance, like running errands, but respect their autonomy in accepting help.

8. Be supportive

If necessary, gently suggest seeking professional help, while respecting their autonomy in making that decision.

9. Look after yourself

Recognise your own limits and encourage them to build a support network beyond just you.

10. Use supportive phrases

Offer to listen, ask how you can help, and remind them they’re not alone.

10 pitfalls to avoid

1. Don’t diagnose or judge

Focus on listening rather than offering solutions or judgments.

2. Don’t rush

Let them share at their own pace; avoid pressuring them to open up.

3. Avoid claiming to understand

Even if you’ve experienced something similar, recognise that each person’s experience is unique.

4. Don’t suggest staying busy

This can minimise their feelings and make them feel misunderstood.

5. Avoid saying “it’s all in your head”

This dismisses their struggles and undermines their experience.

6. Don’t try to cheer them up

Respect the seriousness of their mental health challenges; avoid minimising their feelings.

7. Avoid comparisons

Comparing their situation to others’ can belittle their experiences and feelings.

8. Don’t take rejection personally

If they initially resist your help, understand that it’s not about you.

9. Avoid spiritual explanations

Respect their beliefs and refrain from imposing religious interpretations.

10. Don’t take on too much

Recognise when professional help is needed and signpost. 

Navigating conversations about mental health requires sensitivity, patience, and empathy. By understanding these principles, we can create a supportive environment where individuals feel heard, valued, and understood.

If you’re looking to enhance your knowledge and skills in supporting mental health at work, reach out to learn more about our courses, workshops and coaching. 

Together, we can foster a culture of compassion and support for everyone’s mental well-being.

To learn more about working with me, click here to book a call.

Browse more content

What’s the difference between compassion, empathy, and sympathy?

Embracing your inner critic: exploring the power of internal family systems

Mental Health Awareness week 2024