How to start the conversation with someone you are concerned about:
When it comes to starting a conversation with someone you are worried about, we can often feel at a loss about what to do.
Decide on mood, time and place to have the conversation – it helps to think about the right place – a private space not in front of others – and at a time that the person (and you) has time to talk. It’s not wise to try and talk with someone if either of you are rushing.
Identify your concerns – what you have observed, specific behaviours etc
Plan your conversation – think about the words you use and tone in your voice. Keep it simple – kind, clear and direct.
Here is an example of how to ask:
‘I’ve noticed that you’ve seemed really low recently and haven’t been doing things you usually enjoy. Is everything ok?
Would you like to talk?“
Listen to their response
Showing that you are open and willing to listen helps the person not to feel embarrassed. Remaining calm and non-judgmental allows them to express their feelings, perhaps for the first time, and still feel accepted (many people fear they won’t be). It can be tempting to offer solutions at this point, but don’t jump to problem-solving – it is more valuable to validate the person’s feelings.
If you think someone may be suicidal, ask them. It could save their life.
Here is some guidance from the Mental Health Foundation about how to proceed if you are concerned someone may be having suicidal thoughts:
- Asking about suicide will not put the thought in their head.
- Ask them directly about their thoughts of suicide and what they are planning. If they have a specific plan, they need help right away.
- Ask them if they would like to talk about what’s going on for them with you or someone else.They might not want to open up straight away, but letting them know you are there for them is a big help.
- Listen and don’t judge. Take them seriously and let them know you care.
- Help them to find and access the support they need from people they trust: friends, family, kaumātua, religious, community or cultural leaders, or professionals.
- Don’t leave them alone – make sure someone stays with them until they get help.
- Support them to access professional help, like a doctor or counsellor, as soon as possible. Offer to help them make an appointment, and go with them if you can.
- If they don’t get the help they need the first time, keep trying. Ask them if they would like your help explaining what they need to a professional.
If you’re worried seek help
Talk to the person – Be honest in telling them that you are concerned and that you think extra help might be useful to support them. You can also suggest that they talk to their doctor or see a mental health professional, or call the NZ Music Foundation Wellbeing service. It may help if you offer to go with them. If they do not want to speak with someone, you might try giving them some written information, like a printout from a trusted and credible website.
Suggest avenues of professional support – GP, Lifeline, Suicide Prevention Line, NZ Music Foundation Wellbeing service, a counsellor or similar trained support person.
If you feel that the person is not safe, reach out to support services immediately. It is important to do this step together, rather than asking the person to agree to do it later. Stay with them and ask how you can help. For example, you could offer to call a helpline so that the person doesn’t have to repeat their story from scratch. Make it clear to the support service that the person needs assistance because you are concerned about their wellbeing.
Look after yourself.
Supporting someone who is feeling distressed can be incredibly stressful. Make sure that you take time out for self-care and doing things you enjoy, and that you have people to talk to about how you are going. Your supports may be family or friends, or a mental health professional – the crisis helplines above are for family and friends too.
Follow up and see how they are getting on.
Talk to a trusted friend or professional if you are still concerned. Don’t ignore it.
Here’s a list of telephone support services you can reach out to for help.
Talk to us today:
Free 24/7 support line: 0508 MUSICHELP
Free from Australia: 1 800 353 148
Rest of the World: +64 508 MUSICHELP
(local charges may apply, please consider contacting us by the Talk to Us form here)