Mental Health: Starting the Conversation

Every day we interact with a myriad of people; From acquaintances to best friends, work colleagues, family, life partners, regular customers… the list goes on. Over time, we form a mental picture of this person consisting of how they act and behave, their style and appearance. But what happens when they no longer conform to this picture? They stop putting on makeup, they stop coming in to the cafe on a regular basis, they start turning up to work late or not at all and they’re not their usual vibrant self? This post is all about trusting your gut starting the conversations that could save someone’s life and it’s as easy as asking… R U OK?

By starting a conversation and commenting on the changes you’ve noticed, you could help someone open up. If they say that they are not ok there are a few simple steps you can follow to show that person that they are supported and find strategies to help them manage their load. If they are ok, that person will know you are someone who genuinely cares for them and will know that you are someone they can turn to for help.

First; Make sure that you are ok.
A healthy mental state is in constant flux. It is constantly changing from happy to stressed to excited to sad. It’s when your mental state stays in a negative state for an extended period of time that you are not ok. Before helping others it’s important to first help yourself! You won’t be able to help someone fully if you need help yourself. So first ask; “Am I in a good headspace?” “Am I willing to genuinely listen?” “Can I give as much time as needed?”

Second; Make sure you are prepared.
It’s great that you want to help but have you fully thought about what that could mean? When you ask the question you have to be ready for someone to reply “No, I’m not ok.”
It’s important to know that a lot of us are not trained in mental health issues (unless you are in which case you are probably the most prepared person to talk to someone). We need to understand that we can’t “fix” someone else’s problems. All we can do is be willing to listen to someone and encourage action. Sometimes, someone may not be willing to talk about an issue just yet or may not be comfortable talking to you about it and that’s ok too.

Third; Pick the right moment
Trying to have a deep and meaningful conversation while you’re busy at work meeting deadlines or on a crowded bus or train really isn’t the best time. Make sure you find a place that is relatively private and comfortable. Also make sure that it’s a good time to talk. It’s important that both parties have enough time to talk fully.

Now to finally to start the conversation. It’s important to go into the conversation relaxed and friendly while also coming across as concerned. You can help them open up by asking open ended questions like “ are you ok?” Or “what’s been happening lately?” It’s also a good idea to mention specific things you have noticed without criticising them like “Lately you seem to be less chatty than usual. How are you going?”
If they push back and they don’t want to talk to you that’s ok. Let them know that you are concerned about them and that you care. It’s important to avoid confrontation so it’s ok to walk away. You can always say things to them like “please call me if you would like to chat” or you can always discuss your concerns with someone else. You may not be the only one to notice someone’s change in behaviour and they might open up to someone else.

Sometimes it takes some people time to open up. If they need time to think! Sit patiently with them and don’t fill the silence with unnecessary chatter.

If someone decides to open up to you it is important to listen without judgement and interruption. Don’t judge someone’s experiences or reactions but rather acknowledge that things seem tough for them right now and actively listen to them by encouraging them to explain things to you like “How are you feeling about that?” Or “ How long have you felt like that?” And show that you have listened to them by repeating back to them in your own words what they have said to you and ask if you have understood them properly.

Then it’s time to encourage action. Some people may already have equipped themselves with the tools needed to deal with their own issues you can always ask “What have you done in the past when you have felt like this?” Or “How would you like me to support you?” Other times this is the first time someone is dealing with these feelings or issues and you can always offer some of the tools you use to deal with similar experiences like “when I was going through a difficult time I tried [this]. You might find it useful too”
If they have been feeling really down for a few weeks, encourage them to see a health professional. Someone’s GP is always a great place to start as they have a lot of resources available to them but there is a wide variety of helplines and counselling resources that can help as well. One that I know of is called “Better Help” it is a service that aims to connect people with trained and licensed councillors and mental health practitioners in a way that is discreet, convenient and affordable all online so people can get help in the comfort of their own home or from rural areas that may not have access to these services. Always be positive about the roles professionals can play in helping people though tough times and encourage them to keep seeking avenues of help if they found that one they went to didn’t quite fit them.

Lastly, remember to check in with the person you have talked to. Set a reminder in your phone or diary to touch base with the person in a couple of weeks to see how they are going. If they are really struggling get in touch with them sooner. Keeping contact with someone who is struggling is a great way to remind them that they are not alone and that there are people around them that genuinely care about them. If you feel that someone’s life is in immediate danger, don’t hesitate to call emergency services! Paramedics and police are trained professionals as well and can ensure that they get the help they need. There are also plenty of helplines that you can call yourself if you are worried about someone else that can offer you ideas and resources to help someone else.
Lastly dear Mounties don’t be afraid to reach out to your fellow mountaineers or leaders. I myself am not a trained professional but I have sought out and used a lot of help in the past and are more than happy to share my experiences the tools I’ve used or offer support in any way I can.

Useful Phone Numbers and Resorces
Emergency- 911
Crisis text line- 74 17 41 (anywhere in the US)
National suicide prevention lifeline- 1800 273 8255
National suicide prevention hotline- 1800 784 2433
The Trevor project (LGBT+ helpline)- 1866 488 7386

Emergency- 911
Mental health helpline- 1866 531 2600
Crisis Text Line- 68 68 68
LGBT Youthline- 1800 268 9688
LGBT Youthline text- 647 694 4275

Emergency- 999 or 112
National Health Services (not nation wide yet)- 111 option 2
Samaritans- 116 123
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM male helpline operating 5PM- Middnight) 0800 58 58 58
Shout (text line) 85 25 58

Emergency- 000
Lifeline- 13 11 14
Beyond Blue- 1300 22 46 36
Suicide Call Back Services- 1300 659 467
Qlife (LGBT+ helpline) 1800 184 527


Oooh some context behind this might help :joy: September 12 in Aus is RUOK? Day which is all about starting conversations around well being and depression. It’s heavily observed in the aviation industry because we do have quite high rates of depression and suicide so thought I’d bring it on here too. For new comers I like to do one of these posts every so often, I believe my last one was about 18 months ago on bullying. Our community is a safe place and if you need to discuss anything please contact one of your leaders (or any leader you feel comfortable talking to) and we will do everything in our power to help


Thank you so much for this post! Sept. 10th was also World Suicide Prevention Day, so this is particularly timely in that regard as well. Mental health can be a scary thing to talk about for many people, but there’s so much power in just checking in and asking how someone is doing.

I’d also like to add, if you notice something off or are worried about someone, but don’t feel like you’re personally in a place to support them, you can still reach out. Saying “I noticed that you seem kind of down. While I’m not personally in a great space to help right now, I just wanted to let you know that I was thinking of you,” can still make a difference!

If you’re the one struggling but scared to seek out professional help, it’s okay. Asking for help can be such a hard thing to do, but a professional will understand that and wants to support you however they can. Also, if one counselor or therapist doesn’t seem to fit, you can ask to be referred to someone else - sometimes it can take a couple of tries to find someone who’s approach fits with what you need.

Check in with yourself. Check in with your friends. Normalize conversations about mental health. You might be surprised how many other people have felt the same way and can offer support!


I took a training on this when I was in highschool. Granted it’s been a couple of years so I might get somethigns wrong. A couple of the things that really stood out to me to keep an eye on is wether a person stops taking care of themselves. It’s important to remember that there are many factors that go into self care, poking fun or otherwise criticizing someone because they suddenly smell a little off or the like might not always be the smartest move. Also they told us that one big sign for depression and suicidal thoughts are when people begin to give away things they used to care a lot for. It’s not always healthy if a friend jumps to give what they have, it might be a sign that they value the wants of other over their own. I remember throughout all the training the instructors would tell us to seek help for people who opened up to us about their mental health even if they ask you to keep it a secret. Sometimes things are best when professionals get involved. They would always say that an angry friend is better than a dead friend.


I’d be wary of that last bit. Yes, an angry friend is better than a dead friend for sure, but seeking professional help for someone else is not only hard but also incredibly easy to get wrong. It’s hard enough to seek help when you actually know your own symptoms, someone who’s just heard some things recounted might try for the wrong things. For example, a lot of the symptoms of my depression manifest similarly to traits of ADD and autism, but I have neither of those. If someone only heard those traits without my input they may try to assign me under those branches instead of what I’d actually need. Not to mention that it would be a huge breach of trust. Unless you knew that you were loved extremely deeply, or that it was entirely necessary to help save their life, you might end up with a very angry ex-friend instead. Still. Sometimes it is worth that risk. :blossom:

But for the most part, a lot of the time people just want someone to listen. Even just having someone to vent to can lift huge weights off people’s shoulders. I was at my best when I had counselling, which is far more passive than therapy, and focusses more on working through day to day things than managing entire symptoms or causes (though I haven’t had therapy, so I can’t compare them properly). My councillor encouraged me to work through the worst of the week’s problems, or anything that pulled on me from the week before, by talking them out and using metaphors and mental constructs to figure out the exact feelings and how to manage them. For me, I feel like if I had that every week, I’d rapidly improve… Unfortunately, I was only allowed 6 sessions. But my point is that sometimes, if you’re ready and able to, just listening without trying to help works a lot better than trying to help. Ask if you can help, if they want you to help. I find, from experience, that if someone is ready to ask a friend for help, they’ll soon be ready to ask for professional help. :blossom:


The downside of being old is you’ve had enough time to lose people for all sorts of reasons. No matter what you do there’s always room to second guess yourself afterwards.

Just remember that you care about this person, and most of all be there for them. We’re all complicated, conflicted, confused individuals. Maybe you can help them, and maybe they can help you. We all can benefit from seeing things from someone else’s perspective sometimes.

All you can do is try, and if you come from a place of really caring about them and not trying to ‘fix’ them then you’re already off to the best start.


My biggest struggle so far is finding someone who specialises in therapy for people with autism as there doesn’t seem to be anyone who does. Also personally my parents don’t make things better only worse even when they think they’re trying to help but it’s helpful at all. Oh another pet peeve is that if you say you’re exhausted or tired people respond with things like “But you haven’t done anything all day” and yes I might not be physically tried but I’m 100% mentally tired and exhausted!

I know that I can’t get better due to my current circumstances so I’m just trying to cope and survive each day which is hard enough without having people put their expectations of me on me and forcing others work load on to me as well


Hard same, my autism affects my other stuff, so I need someone who isn’t completely in the dark about it, but I don’t actually need or want a therapist for that specifically, and it’s hard to make the NT people around me grok that. Also terrible is the number of people who recommend places that are backed by Autism $peaks, or that use Applied Behavioral Analysis. I know they really think they’re helping, but I just cannot make most of them get the fact that AS is a hate group and ABA is abuse.

If you ever need to vent at me, please feel free to message me. Just let me know at the top of the message if you want advice or empathy, I have trouble telling what is needed and both can be unhelpful if applied at the wrong point.


Ye Autism speaks is no good and the UK National Autism Society has no useful links. I tried Cognitive behaviour therapy for six weeks but didn’t help (I later researched into it and found that it has little effect on autistic people). The only reason I want a therapist that is also aware of autism is that they’ll be able to help and understand me better or that’s my hope at least. Also I’m not very good at knowing when empathy is needed either and I tend to bottle things up as well till it all explodes.


ASAN,, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, has some resources that might help, if you find a therapist that is willing to do some homework on the topic. I gave “Loud Hands” to my previous therapist and insisted she read it, so she would understand why I found some of her advice problematic (for me, it was fine advice for NT’s). We ended up parting ways over another issue, but at least she was willing to learn with me, instead of insisting her assumptions were fact.

I found Dialectical Behavior Therapy to be useful, as it’s 90% emotion regulation and identification, so I at least know why I’m upset and afterwards can explain it to others to prevent it happening again. And boundaries, it’s got a fair bit on those, and boy howdy do I… not have those. At all.


Thanks so much to @Skylad for starting all of this! I’m also not a trained professional but I have a little experience with the organization Active Minds. As far as I’m aware, AM is US-based and operates mostly at the university level (though there might be some chapters at the high school level for our younger mounties). Their work is in advocacy and awareness, so I highly suggest giving them a look if this is a topic that you care about.

Of particular relevance to Sky’s post above, Active Minds has a guide to having a conversation with someone who might be struggling called the V-A-R method. V-A-R breaks down into:

Validate their feelings - Let the person know that you believe them and understand that whatever they’re going through is valid. Nothing stops a conversation faster than being dismissed or shut down.

Appreciate their courage - It’s hard to talk to people about personal things and mental health, so it’s important that they understand that you appreciate that they’re reaching out.

Refer them to a professional - While talking to a friend or family member can certainly help, there’s only so much that you can do for someone. Directing the person you’re talking to to a trained professional or professionally-developed tools can be a big help. Podcasts, websites, and hotlines are great starting places for someone seeking further assistance.

For emergency situations though, definitely involve a trained professional. More information and examples can be found on the Active Minds website.

Also, be sure to check all the benefits of health insurance plans! You may have access to remote mental health services or other dedicated hotlines.


To pop this thread into view, because it’s important.

I’ve been told before by certain family members that they believe my father to have Aspergers, and they suspect that, given how much I take after him behaviorally, I may have it as well.
At first it hurt to hear it. But sometime in the last couple months, I’ve come across YouTubers who are Aspies (some who also have degrees in psychology), and dedicated their channel as a space to talk about and raise awareness of life with autism. The things they talk about - behavioral traits, ticks, common ways of thinking that don’t usually occur in “neurotypicals” - I recognized much of in myself.
I don’t have the money or insurance to get professionally diagnosed, however.


I’m on the Spectrum as well and I’ve found many helpful Facebook pages that raise awareness of it. I can definitely say that a lot of neurotypics don’t understand us at all and really struggle to communicate with us. A lot of my family and cousins are on the spectrum so i definitely think there’s a possible genetic link to it! :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Oh also I found a dedicated thread to autism though I think the title needs changing to just Autism Awareness as awareness shouldn’t just be limited to one month


Oh I also found this site called 7cupsoftea which is basically a free therapy site where you can talked to someone if you need to!


Thank you for reminding me about the autism thread. For everyone’s information, the link to the thread no longer works as I’ve taken it down to fix some mistakes I noticed that I wasn’t educated enough on the subject to notice before.
I know better now, and will do my best to replace it with a thread that has more useful resources and correct language. I can’t say exactly when it will be back up, but know that I am working on it.


In the absence of that page, I’d like to ask here: does anyone follow any autistic youtubers?
One of my favorites is Yo Samdy Sam.
I really enjoyed her latest video