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21st May 2015

Mind Matters: How to Start a Mental Health Conversation

You don't have to be an expert so start a conversation.

When you know someone with a mental health problem or you have one yourself, sometimes it’s hard to know how to start a conversation.

If someone had just come out of hospital, you probably wouldn’t think twice about asking how they were doing. Talking openly about your mental health is important too.

Very often, it’s the small things that you can do and say that can make a big difference to someone’s life. Remember, you don’t need to be a professional to talk about your mental health.

Here are some top tips from See Change, to help start a conversation:

Experiencing a mental health problem is simply part and parcel of the ups and downs of life and can happen to any of us but the silence around mental health stops people seeking help and makes the experience of being unwell much harder. It doesn’t have to be this way.

The chances are that you or someone you know will, go through a tough time at some point so why not talk about it and learn how to support each other?

You don’t need to be an expert to start talking about mental health or have all the answers. Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is to let someone know that you are there for them and simply listen.

Although you can’t solve someone else’s problems, knowing the basics about how to support someone can really help you – and them.


What do I say?

Take your lead from the person themselves and ask how you can help.

If you think that someone might be experiencing a difficulty, make it clear that you’ve noticed that they don’t seem like their usual self and suggest that if they ever want to talk that you’ll be there. If you know someone has been unwell, don’t be afraid to ask how they are. They might want to talk about it, they might not. But just letting them know they don’t have to avoid the issue with you is important.

Take the pressure off yourself by not trying to rush to find solutions or comparisons.

We often fall into the trap of jumping straight in with something positive or wanting everything to be ‘okay’ but what the other person really needs is to be listened to. It’s okay not to have answers and to say that you don’t.

It doesn’t always have to be a big conversation about mental health.

There are lots of small ways of showing support -just be yourself and listen. Send a text or just ask someone ‘how they’re doing’ – and mean it. Little things can make a big difference.

Try avoid clichés.

Phrases like ‘Cheer up’, ‘I’m sure it’ll pass’ and ‘Pull yourself together’ definitely won’t help the conversation! Being open minded, non-judgemental and listening will help you connect with the person.


See Change, the National Stigma Reduction Partnership and our 90 partner organisations are rolling out a month long national Green Ribbon campaign to get people talking openly about mental health problems this May. 

More than 300,000 green ribbons will be distributed nationwide free of charge to spark a national conversation about mental health in boardrooms, break-rooms, chat rooms, clubhouses, arts venues, college campuses and around kitchen tables throughout Ireland.

Aware – Helping to Defeat Depression (
Helpline: 1890 303 302, E-mail Support: [email protected]

Console – Living with Suicide (
Helpline: 1800 201890

Pieta House – Centre for the Prevention of Suicide or Self-Harm (
Phone: 01 601 0000

Samaritans (
Helpline: 116 123 (Free Phone Number), Email Support Service: [email protected]

Shine – Supporting People affected by Mental Ill Health (Schizophrenia Ireland) (
Helpline: 1890 621 631