How to have mental health and wellbeing conversations
Information, training and resources to support you in having meaningful mental health and wellbeing conversations with others.
If someone lets you know that they are experiencing difficult thoughts and feelings, it's common to feel like you don’t know what to do or say – but you don't need any special training to show someone you care about them, and often it can be the most valuable help you can offer.
Things to remember
- Listen. Simply giving someone space to talk and listening to how they’re feeling, without judgement or necessarily trying to offer any solutions, can be really helpful in itself. If they're finding it difficult to open up, let them know that you're there when they are ready.
- Offer reassurance. Seeking help can feel lonely, and sometimes scary. You can reassure someone by letting them know that they are not alone, and that you will be there to help.
- Stay calm. Even though it might be upsetting to hear that someone is distressed, try to stay calm. This will help your friend or family member feel calmer too, and show them that they can talk to you openly without upsetting you.
- Be patient. You might want to know more details about their thoughts and feelings, or want them to get help immediately. But it’s important to let them set the pace for seeking support themselves.
- Try not to make assumptions. Your perspective might be useful, but try not to assume that you already know what may have caused their feelings, or what will help.
- Check in with them regularly. Part of the emotional support you offer could be to keep things as normal as possible. This could include involving chatting about other parts of your lives.
When speaking to someone about their mental health and wellbeing, try using simple conversation prompts that go beyond “how are you?” such as:
- How are you coping?
- What has been the best part of your week so far?
- What have you been reflecting on since we spoke?
For other suggestions of questions to use refer to the Self-care in a Crisis guide.
Facilitating mental health and wellbeing conversations at work
Team meetings can be an opportunity to give each person (including yourself) space to share what’s happening for them and how they are doing.
Try leading wellbeing group discussions with your immediate team and use 1:1s to follow up with individuals.
We created the following tool to guide you through how to do this, and a summary of this information can be found below:
- The focus is about opening up and having regular discussions rather than needing to cover specific points. Suggest a minimum of 30 minutes once a quarter for reflection and discussion.
- Start by checking in with each other. Give each person (including yourself) space to share what’s happening for them and how they are doing. Taking time to share thoughts and feelings can help to stop things from festering and helps highlight strengths and good things too.
- Talk about what’s on people’s minds about how they have been working as a team. Take the time to stop and reflect collectively on the things people are noticing (and perhaps thinking and feeling). What is working and what has been achieved.
- Share thoughts about what team members need from each other, now and as they move forward. The current situation warrants honesty about what people need to work at their best. Encourage people to think about how they can support each other.
- Leave time for a check out. What’s left to say – both anything appreciative and anything that is left unresolved that may need more work – and what might happen next as a result of this conversation?
Repeat this format regularly in team meetings – we suggest at least once per quarter.
Use 1:1s to follow up with individuals, using the simple conversation prompts we suggest above. For additional questions refer to the following guide:
Note: The above process has been adapted from guidance created from
Reach Out: An employer’s guide to using behavioural insights in supporting staff mental health and wellbeing (from the Behavioural Insights Team).
Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Toolkit
For line managers, or colleagues working in HR or communications, there is a mental health and wellbeing support toolkit available which may be useful to any member of staff looking for guidance on this topic.