7 questions you should ask someone if you're worried about their mental health
- Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker, mental strength coach, and international bestselling author.
- If someone if your life seems especially depressed or anxious lately, Morin says there are different questions you can ask to show that you care about them and offer help if they need anything.
- Ask if they've been eating and sleeping well — some people are nervous to talk about their emotions, so it may be easier for them to open up starting with a more tangible topic.
- Offer to do something for them, anything from giving emotional support to picking up groceries. A gesture like this can go a long way in showing your friend that you appreciate and care about them.
Whether you have a good friend who seems depressed lately, or a family member who seems especially anxious,
But you shouldn't ignore a potential mental health issue if you're concerned. The other person may want to address their psychological well-being, but just doesn't know how to bring it up.
Asking a few pointed questions can give them an opportunity to talk, if they want to. It can also show that you care, and help them see you're willing to be there for them when they're going through a tough time.
Don't run through these questions like a checklist, however. The last thing someone with a mental health issue wants is to feel like they're being interrogated.
But do pick and choose a few questions to invite the other person to get a conversation started. If it seems they aren't interested in talking, that's OK. You can ask again on another day.
1. How are you doing?
"How are you?" is most commonly used as a figure of speech that generates pleasant replies like, "Good."
But if you really want to know how someone is doing, ask them after you've already cut through the small talk.
You might point out something you've observed like, "I notice you haven't been going to see your parents lately. Are you doing OK?"
Or you might talk about a difficult experience the person has had by saying something like, "I've been meaning to ask, how have you been doing since your grandmother passed away?"
Make eye contact when you ask an important question. And give the other person time to respond without any interruptions.
2. Is there anything you want to talk about?
Sometimes people just need assurance that it's OK to bring up tough subjects or topics that go a little deeper.
This can help the conversation move from superficial subjects to something a little more meaningful if the other person wants.
If they aren't interested in talking about anything, don't pry. Instead, let them know you're willing to listen if they ever do want to talk.
3. How's your stress level lately?
Sometimes it's easier to talk about an external force like stress rather than an internal problem like emotional turmoil.
So asking someone how their stress has been might feel a little less threatening than outright asking about their mental state. Yet it could allow you to have a similar conversation.
4. Have you been eating and sleeping?
People who find it hard to share their feelings may feel more comfortable sharing tangible evidence that they're in pain.
Sleep and appetite are often impacted by mental health. So someone might more easily say, "I just haven't wanted to eat for a while," or "I haven't slept more than 20 minutes at a time."
Asking those questions also shows you care, and it may give you an opening to intervene. You might follow it up with a question like, "Have you thought about talking to your doctor about that?" Show empathy by acknowledging their pain, and make it clear that you want them to feel better.
5. Would you be willing to talk to someone?
Your loved one might be on the fence about talking to a therapist. Asking them in a nonjudgmental way could encourage them to do it.
And if they haven't been thinking about it, asking about it may open their eyes to the fact that it's a possibility.
Asking this question might also show them that there's no need to be embarrassed about talking to a professional. If they agree, you could offer to help them schedule an appointment, or you might even offer to take them.
6. What can I do for you?
Mental health issues can make it tough to function. So if your loved one is struggling, they might appreciate some help. Help may involve practical things like getting groceries or regular emotional support like daily video chats.
However, don't be surprised if they aren't sure what you could do for them. Sometimes it's hard to recognize where we need help, or how someone may be able to assist. If you see something that might be helpful, make a specific offer like, "Can I help you get the dishes done?"
7. When is the best time to check in with you again?
You don't want to force your way into someone's life by saying, "I'm going to call you several times a day." Annoying them won't encourage the person to talk.
But you can ask them when it's OK to follow up. Let them know you'd like to check in with them. Whether they want you to call another day or in a couple of weeks, it's OK. Just make sure to show you're sincere by following up and doing what you say.
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