Worried about someone else's mental health

A friend or family member might be going through a difficult time. This can be worrying for everyone involved.

You might not understand what they are going through. You might also not know how to help.

Ask, listen and offer your support

The best thing you can do is listen to the person. You could also help them get professional help if they need it.

Try talking directly to them about your concerns. People often want to talk but find it hard to start the conversation. Most people will turn to a friend or family for support during tough times. Being there for them can help.

You can help by:

  • asking open questions about how they are feeling
  • talking about your concerns and the things you have noticed
  • giving them time and space to tell you about what they are going through
  • listening without interrupting, making comparisons, being judgmental or offering solutions
  • after listening, deciding if you need to encourage them to get professional help

For many people, asking and listening will help. It can be a huge relief for the other person to know you are there.

If you are still worried about them, encourage them to talk to a GP.

If they are worried about visiting their GP, you can suggest going with them.

Tips on being a good listener

Helping someone with depression

Getting professional help

If you have concerns that someone might be unwell, you may need to get professional help.

They may be experiencing a mental health problem.

If they use a mental health service

If the person has used or uses a mental health service, get in touch with the community mental health team (CMHT). Contact them even if the person is no longer using the service.

Ask for an appointment or ask to speak to the community mental health nurse. They will give you advice on what to do.

If they do not use a mental health service

If the person does not use a mental health service, encourage them to talk to their GP about a referral.

Find mental health supports and services

Accompanying someone to mental health support services

You could also bring them to a GP or to the emergency department.

Unwilling to get help

Sometimes the person experiencing a mental health problem will not want to get help.

This can be difficult to accept when you have concerns about them. But it is usually better that they go for help themselves.

It's important for them to accept that help is necessary. Making the decision to get help is an important part of the recovery process.

Continue to listen to them. Let them know you are there for them. Share your concerns with them. Gently remind them that things can improve with the right support.

Continue to encourage them to contact their GP. Offer to accompany them to the first appointment if they think that would be helpful.

Recovery

You will play an important role in your loved one's recovery.

Reconnecting with people is an important step. It's a part of a person's recovery from mental health problems.

A danger to themselves or others

Sometimes a person will not want to get help but they are a real danger to themselves or others.

If they are thinking of harming themselves, get rid of any means of suicide or self-harm. This includes sharp items, medicines and ropes.

Stay with them while you call a GP or emergency services. Do not leave them on their own. Go with them when help arrives.

Urgent advice: Call 112 or 999 if you:

  • feel you're at risk
  • have been assaulted or threatened

A Garda may recommend that the person should be admitted to mental health services. This may not be what the person wants. This will only happen if the Garda thinks the person is likely to harm themselves or others. This is the last resort in a crisis situation.

Supporting someone who might be suicidal

Being admitted to mental health services

A person can be admitted to a mental health service against their will if they are a danger to themselves or others. This is part of the Mental Health Act 2001.

You can get information on this and your rights from the Mental Health Commission.

More information about the Mental Health Comission - mhcirl.ie

What happens if you are admitted to a psychiatric hospital - citizensinformation.ie

Learn about your rights as a psychiatric patient - citizensinformation.ie

Taking care of your own mental health

If you are very close to the person or living with them, it's important to mind your own mental health.

Connect with your friends and spend time outside of the home if you are living with the person who is experiencing the mental health difficulty.

If the situation has a negative impact on your own wellbeing, you may also need professional support. It is important to remember that there are limits to how much we can support another person. Especially if that person is unwilling to get professional help.

Getting support

Support for family members is available on the following websites:

Mental health supports and services

Page last reviewed: 1 September 2022
Next review due: 1 September 2025