30 October 2023 posted by Recovery Partners

If you believe someone that you care about is struggling it can be hard to start a conversation with them about what is going on in their life. Effective communication is key to providing support to your friends or loved ones. Here are some tips on helping you provide the best support:

1)   Practice Active Listening

Active listening goes beyond merely hearing; it involves giving your full attention to the person, asking open-ended questions, and periodically summarising what you have heard to ensure you understand.

Use phrases like:

  • “Take your time, there is no rush. I know it can be difficult to talk about this.”
  •  “I can hear that you have been going through a really tough time. Please tel me more about it so I can understand.”

Avoid interruptions and save any comments or questions until they have finished speaking.

2)   Avoid Making Comparisons

While sharing your own experience can be helpful, avoid comparing their situation to yours. Focus on how you coped with similar feelings or challenges, showing understanding and empathy. 

3)   Ask What You Can Do

Instead of assuming their needs, ask what you can do to support them. Respect their preferences and offer suggestions without pressure, showing your willingness to help

4)   Keep Your Word

If you promise support, make sure to keep your word. In times of struggle, feeling abandoned by a trusted friend of family member can be distressing. 

5)   Avoid Judging

Put aside personal opinions and biases. Offer a non-judgemental and empathetic space for them to express their feelings. Avoid criticism or judgement, as it can hinder their recovery.

6)   Offer to Join Them

Assist with everyday responsibilities if their emotional state makes even simple tasks overwhelming. Offer to accompany them to complete responsibilities like walking the dog, grocery shopping, doctor appointments, or errands like picking up dry cleaning can make a significant difference. It not only helps them accomplish tasks but also lifts their spirits, providing a sense of accomplishment.  

7)   Respect Their Privacy

Remember the importance of confidentiality. Do not share their personal information unless you believe they may be at risk of harming themselves. Confidentiality is crucial in building trust and allowing them to share their feelings and experiences without fear of judgement or unwanted disclosure. 

8)  Use Positive Body Language

Non-verbal cues like maintaining an upright posture, maintaining eye contact, and nodding your head occasionally shows your engagement and understanding.

9)  Paraphrase and Show Appreciation

Repeating or paraphrasing what they’ve said back to them demonstrates your interest and understanding. Express gratitude for their willingness to open up, recognising the difficulty it may entail. Reassure them that they have taken a positive step by opening up about what they are going through.

10)  Offer Support, Not Solutions

Focus on offering emotional support, not solutions. Let them know you’re there for them and ask what you can do to help. Remember, you do not have to have all the answers.

Use phrases like:

  • “What can we do to make things better?”
  •  “I’m here for you.”

These statements convey your support and willingness to assist if they need it. It’s crucial to recognise that you may not have all the answers, and that’s okay.

Supporting someone with mental health issues through empathetic communication is invaluable. Active listening, empathy and providing non – judgemental, confidential space are the pillars of effective communication. Remember that your role is to listen, understand, and offer support, not to provide solutions. By following these tips, you can be a source of comfort and understanding for your loved one as they navigate their mental health journey. Your compassion and support can make a significant difference in their path to recovery and wellbeing.


Download our FREE poster today and equip yourself with essential tips on how to navigate those crucial conversations, ensuring you provide the support your loved ones need during challenging times.

Workplace’s corporate health programs not only enhances your own well-being but also contributes to breaking down workplace stigma surrounding mental health. If your workplace hasn’t initiated a corporate health program yet, take the initiative to spark change. Start the conversation with your employer today, and let’s create a healthier, stigma-free workplace environment together.

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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/