How to help someone?

4 min read

Talking about depression, ill-being or mental disorders is never easy at first, but starting a conversation can completely change a person's situation. This article gives you some ideas for bringing up the subject with the person you are worried about and want to help.

Above all, remember that helping someone can be very trying, remember to also take care of yourself and ask for help if you need it. There are specialized associations for each disorder and also family associations. If you need comfort, you will find it in the sharing and solidarity of those around you and also of those who are going through a situation similar to yours.

A conversation can make a difference because it will help the person to feel less alone and above all to feel supported. Just being there makes a huge difference in the course of depression or anxiety.

During the exchange, it is essentially:

  • to help the person to share their unhappiness by taking news,
  • to share that his well-being concerns you,
  • that you have noticed a change in her/his behavior
  • and that you are there to provide support.

There is no perfect way to have this conversation. Your authenticity and your empathy are the essential ingredients of this exchange. Your presence goes beyond words and in any case, will touch your interlocutor.

Here are some things to help drive the conversation:

  • You seem preoccupied at the moment, do you have a problem?
  • I noticed you don't hang out with us much anymore, what's going on?
  • I worry about you. Did something happen to you? Can we talk about it?
  • If you need, you know I'm here for you?
  • How do you feel? What are you feeling? Something is beyond you?
  • I know talking about it can be difficult. Take the time it takes. Just know that I'll be there when you need me.
  • The last few months have been really difficult for you. How about talking about it?
  • I don't know if I'm the right person but I would like to help you. Something I could do for you?
  • I want to help but this may be difficult for you, so let me know if you are uncomfortable.
  • I know it was difficult to talk about it. Thanks for trusting me.
  • You don't have to deal with this alone. I'm here for you. Things can get better.
  • What have you already tried? Have you consulted your doctor?
The person may not be ready to talk. Don't pressure her/him, give her/him time. The important thing is that she/he knows that you care, that you are available and listening.
Do not focus attention on the problem, be in the accompaniment and the contact. Offer to do things together and have frequent interactions. Let her/him know that it's important for you to hear from her/him and that you'll call her/him or drop by.
If the person is sharing difficult things, don't be judgmental. Listen, reassure and try to make the person as comfortable as possible.

You have this person's trust, breaking it can hurt them more. Keep what she/he tells you private unless you feel she/he might hurt herself/himself or someone else.
You can also suggest other people she/he could talk to, such as a friend, relative, or confidential helpline.
It may take time before a person is ready to see a professional. Reassure her/him and plant the seed that professional support is available when she/he is ready.
Discuss with the person the obstacles they are facing and how you can help them, such as going with them to the appointment or finding a healthcare professional. However, be very careful not to substitute your support to a professional consultation.
If you think the person is thinking of suicide and there is immediate danger, do not leave the person alone (unless you fear for your own safety). Call a mental health crisis service or emergency services and their doctor if you have contact information.
You will have understood that by your presence and your listening you can help a person to engage more easily and more quickly in a therapeutic approach and on the path to healing.
Thank you for being there.