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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 mightn't 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 to 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, so 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 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. They may feel such relief that the problem may resolve itself by talking it out with you.

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

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. There are signs you can look out for.

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. 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 don't use a mental health service

If the person is not linked with mental health services, encourage them to attend. 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 won't want to get help.

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

It's important for them to accept that help is necessary. Making the decision alone 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.

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

Recovery

You will play a key 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.

Related topics

Recovery

A danger to themselves or others

Sometimes a person won't want to get help but 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. Once you have contacted the services, go with them to their appointment.

If you feel you're at risk or have been assaulted or threatened, contact the Gardaí­ on 999 or 112.

A garda may try to have the person admitted to mental health services. This may be involuntarily. This will only happen if the garda thinks the person is likely to harm themselves or others. This is a last resort in a crisis situation.

Involuntary detention - guides

A person can be admitted to a mental health service against their will. This is part of the Mental Health Act 2001.

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

Page last reviewed: 23/09/2018
Next review due: 23/09/2021

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