How to support someone who is struggling with their mental health

Posted on June 17, 2021

How to support someone who is struggling with their mental health

If you are supporting a friend or relative with their mental health, it can be tricky to know how to help. You may find it particularly challenging if your loved one is male, as a combination of factors, including gender roles and societal expectations, means that men are less likely to seek help with mental health problems. In fact, men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women, with only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies being for men.

Here are some ways to support your loved ones with their mental health, plus resources where you can find more information to help your friend or relative.

Offer to help

If you are concerned about a loved one’s mental health, let them know you care, are available to help, and that they can be open and honest with you.

Provide reassurance 

Many people find speaking about their mental health problems difficult, so reassure them that you are there for them if and when they want to talk.

Be patient

It may take time for your loved one to open up and there may be things they feel uncomfortable discussing with you. Be patient and never force someone to talk to you or get help.


Listening is one of the best things we can do for a friend or relative who is struggling with their mental health. Take the time out of your busy schedule to sit down and listen to them. Ask questions to help them open up. You can find listening tips from the Samaritans here.

Offer practical help

There are practical things you can offer to do for your loved one too, like fetching groceries, cooking dinner or accompanying them to appointments. Support with these practical tasks can take some of the pressure off when a loved one is struggling. It may also be nice to do some activities together, like playing a sport, going for a walk, watching a movie or cooking a meal together. 

Respect boundaries

It’s important to listen to and respect your loved one’s boundaries, which may include not wanting to seek further support. Talk and listen without judgement.

Remember to look after yourself as well

It can be difficult to see a person you care about struggling with their mental health and providing ongoing support can impact your own wellbeing. Remember to look after yourself too, making time for relaxation, exercise and nutritious food. Foods to help feed the brain include fatty fish which is rich in omega 3 fatty acids like salmon, mackerel and sardines. With the brain being made up of 60% fat, it is important to include these good fats (fatty fish, avocado, nuts, seeds) in your diet or through supplementation, which support the learning and memory part of the brain. Adding antioxidant and anti-inflammatory rich foods like blueberries, broccoli, red grapes, turmeric (yellow spice added to foods) can also protect cells from oxidative stress. 

Further support

Explore these useful resources on mental health – and remember to speak to your GP if you think you might be suffering from a mental health problem.