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So, you’ve heard about a mental health struggle. How do you respond?

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Reaching out for help is one of the most difficult things someone can do. Especially when it comes to asking for help with mental health. If someone discloses their struggles, no matter what the relationship is between you and the person who’s chosen to open up, responding in a way that’s supportive and empathetic can leave a lasting, positive mark.

But, what exactly do you do with the information? Here are some tips on what to do when someone shares their mental health struggles:

Acknowledge and validate feelings
The first thing to do when someone shares their mental health struggles with you is to acknowledge their feelings and validate their experience. This means showing empathy and understanding towards their situation. You can say something like, "I'm sorry to hear that you're going through this. It must be really difficult for you."

Use active listening
Active listening is a crucial skill in any conversation, but especially when it comes to sensitive topics like mental health. It involves fully concentrating on what the person is saying, understanding their perspective, and responding in a way that shows you've heard and understood them. Some active listening techniques include asking open-ended questions, paraphrasing what they've said, and reflecting on their emotions.

Be prepared for discomfort
Talking about mental health can be uncomfortable, and it's normal to feel some discomfort when someone shares their struggles with you. However, it's important to be prepared for this discomfort and not let it interfere with your ability to support the person. Remember that it's not about you, and that you can play a supportive role to someone who's chosen to trust you with their truths. 

Offer resources
If you’re not a professional therapist, you're not expected to be a mental health expert, but you can offer resources and support based on your knowledge. This might include referring them to workplace support options, a mental health program or a therapist. You can also share the expert-approved content that's provided to you or the "Ask an Expert" event invitations offered by your workplace wellness program. 

Respect confidentiality
It's important to respect confidentiality when someone shares their mental health struggles with you. Unless the person is in immediate danger or has given you permission to share their information, you should keep their struggles confidential. This means not discussing it with other team members or supervisors without their consent.

Following up with the person after they've opened up to you about their mental health can show that you care and are there for them if your tank is full. You can ask how they're doing, offer additional resources, or simply let them know that you're available to talk if they need support in the future. 

By handling the situation with care and compassion, you help build supportive relationships and eliminate stigma around mental health struggles. If you’re ever in need of support yourself or if you’re unsure how to handle difficult conversations, our experts are a few clicks away.

"Start by accepting the increased uncertainty..."

Stronger Minds content is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to establish a standard of care with a reader, you should always seek the advice of your mental health professional, physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. If you think you may have a medical or mental health emergency, call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital emergency department, or call emergency services immediately. You should never disregard or delay seeking medical advice relating to treatment or standard of care because of information contained herein. Medical information changes constantly. Therefore the information herein should not be considered current, complete or exhaustive, nor should you rely on such information to recommend a course of treatment for you or any other individual. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.