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How to start talking about mental health

Posted: 12/17/2017 8:50 PM by Just Better Care
How to start talking about mental health We all know that tending to our mental health is equally as important as our physical health. But sometimes ensuring mental wellbeing can be more complicated.

For many older Australians, depression and feelings of isolation or loneliness can be a common problem. More likely to experience physical illness or personal loss, our elderly loved ones can sometimes find themselves in a vulnerable position and may struggle to ask for help.

This holiday season, Just Better Care is encouraging everyone to check in with their older relatives, friends, and neighbours and start the conversation about their mental health and wellbeing.

Reduce the stigma
Discussions around mental health are becoming more common place, however it is still seldom talked about amongst older generations. Some older people have never spoken up about how they feel because it wasn’t normalised or accepted when they were growing up.

Others worry that they will be treated differently if they talk to someone about how they are feeling. Not wanting to feel like they are being a burden, they can sometimes keep feelings of sadness and seclusion to themselves.

If you have a loved one who you suspect may be suffering from loneliness or depression, talking can be the easiest way to break down stigma. Normalising conversations around emotions can make it easier to identify risks and manage problems when they occur.  

But these conversations can be tricky. Here are some tips on how to ask if someone is okay.

Find a safe space
Firstly, think about choosing a quiet, safe space to have the discussion. Let them know that you are there to talk about how they are feeling. Make it clear you are there to listen, and provide support if they need it.

Show you care
Beyondblue provides a number of different conversation starters that can encourage a healthy discussion about how your loved one is feeling.

The mental health research and advocacy organisation makes a number of suggestions for starting a conversation, such as: “You haven’t seemed yourself lately – is everything OK?”

Take action
At the end of the conversation, work out what help you can provide to improve their situation. This may be something as simple as a weekly phone call or offering to help them with any of their weekly tasks such as gardening or grocery shopping.

Ask an expert
It is important to get advice from an expert. Friends and family can be a great help during difficult times, but sometimes professional help is also needed. Consider encouraging them to book an appointment with their local GP to discuss the feelings they are experiencing. Beyondblue also provides a range of free advice and information to help support your loved one.

Talking about isolation and depression can sometimes be a daunting task for both sides, but starting a conversation can be the first step to better health for your loved one. For more information, contact us or visit

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