Updated: Mar 8, 2019
I often get asked 'what do I say to someone who says they have a mental health problem'.
It's simple!! Smile and offer to listen. Never underestimate the power of listening with your undivided attention. All that someone with a mental health problem wants is to be listened to. Avoid comparison statements like 'me too' or 'when I had depression, i was....' or 'I know how you feel'; these are unhelpful. Keep eye contact and give reassurance that you are there to support them.
It is tempting to offer solutions but these are not always what your friend or loved one needs. Often, when someone with mental health problems starts to talk, they fear what your reaction will be and that you will begin to treat them differently. It will have been a huge effort for them to confide in you and they may have been agonising over this for some time. They may also go over and over the same ground and may take none of your advice. Do not be frustrated by this as it is a normal process of working things through.
Be gentle, open and give them the time to talk without interruption. They may require gentle coaxing at times to reveal more; use open questions like 'tell me more about that' or 'I hear you', 'So you say that .........has happened...' or 'how did that make you feel'. But most of all do not interrupt them. Just listen.