How to Speak Up About Mental Health

If you suspect that a friend or family member is struggling with depression, anxiety or another mental health challenge, the best thing you can do is Speak Up. At times, dealing with mental illness can be lonely, isolating and frightening, so let the person know that they are not alone. Reassure them that their situation is not unusual; in fact, mental health challenges are quite common. 1 in 5 adult San Diegans lives with a mental health challenge. Fortunately, recovery is also common, and there are a number of treatments that are effective and readily available.

Once you’ve opened the door, Listen Up and ask questions. Listen to what the person is sharing with you. Ask questions to let them know you’re hearing them and respect what they’re going through, because they might not necessarily understand it themselves. Above all, don’t minimize their symptoms or expect them to simply snap out of it. Mental health is just as important to address as physical health.

Encourage your friend or loved one to seek support from a professional. Offer to help find the appropriate resources together. Offer to make an appointment with a doctor or counselor, and volunteer to accompany them if the person would find it helpful. Don’t underestimate the importance of your support, time and help. You can be a vital piece of your loved one’s recovery. For more ideas about how to support someone who is struggling with mental health problems, download this helpful tip sheet.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell which of our well-meaning comments will be helpful and which may actually hurt more than they help. Here are some guidelines from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance for talking to someone who shows symptoms of a mental health disorder. Put the statements into your own words and remember: What’s most important is that your friend or family member understands your support.


I know you have a real illness and that’s what causes these thoughts and feelings. It’s all in your head.
I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help. We all go through times like this.
You are important to me. Your life is important to me. You have so much to live for– why do you want to die?
Tell me what I can do now to help you. What do you want me to do?
I can’t do anything about your situation.
You might not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change. Just snap out of it.
Look on the bright side.
You are not alone in this. I’m here for you. You’ll be fine. Stop worrying.
Talk to me. I’m listening. Here’s my advice…
I am here for you. We will get through this together. What’s wrong with you?
Shouldn’t you be better by now?