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How to start a conversation about mental health

Looking after your mental health is important for your overall health and wellbeing. It is important to talk about how you feel, but knowing what to say and starting a conversation can be difficult. Remember that seeking support is a sign of strength and there is always support available.

If you are struggling, talking about it with someone you trust can help you get things off your chest and feel a bit better. You don’t have to talk face to face, it can be on the phone, by text, or even in a letter. Finding which form of communication works best for you is important.

Starting a conversation about your own mental health

In the workplace...

Being open about your feelings at work can help your colleagues or managers give you support and provide help if needed. A good way to talk to your colleagues is to call them to one side on a lunch break or over a coffee. You can request a meeting with your manager if you would like to speak to them and you can say as little or as much as you want to. Your company may even have an employee assistance programme, or “EAP” which often provide mental health support confidentially to employees. Speak to your HR department if you are not sure.

Outside the workplace...

Talking with a close friend or family member that you trust can help you not feel alone. It is better to be honest and open about how you’re feeling. Finding somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed or even over a drink can be a great way to start the conversation.

What to say?

Supporting Others

If you are supporting someone else, let them speak first and make sure the conversation naturally goes in that direction. You don’t want to force the conversation and make the other person uncomfortable.

In the workplace...

It’s good to create a safe space in the workplace where your colleagues feel like they can talk about their mental health. If you notice a colleague feeling down or not being themselves, ask how they are doing. It is essential to make sure that they are comfortable to talk to you and that you create the right conditions for them to open up. This could be somewhere private on a lunch break or on a coffee break.

Outside the workplace...

If you notice a friend or family member not feeling themselves, a good way to talk with them is over a coffee or maybe even a phone call. Some people find it easier to talk on car journeys, or whilst doing activities together such as walking or cooking. However you do it, just reaching out and starting the conversation shows that you care.

What to say

Don’t try and fix it.

It is important just to listen to their problems and not try and fix them unless they ask for advice. Just listening can make a huge difference. It may be tempting to try and fix it; however, sometimes unsolicited advice can cause more stress.

Starting a conversation and finding the right words isn’t always easy when talking about mental health. Whether you are talking to someone about your feelings or you’re listening to someone else, it is important that you can start these conversations and create a safe environment where you can be open and provide support if needed.

Signposts to support

You can speak to your GP if don’t have anyone you feel comfortable talking to or if you are giving support to someone, you can offer to see their GP with them (only if you or they feel comfortable to do so)

Samaritans – call 116 123 any time for free, or email for a response within 24 hours.

Our sources & Information

Talking about mental health | Mental Health Foundation

Helping others with mental health problems - Every Mind Matters - NHS

Talking about your mental health problem - Mind

Talking Tips - Time To Talk Day

Talking about mental health at work - Mental Health UK

A guide on how to approach difficult conversations | Heads Together


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Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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