When someone you care about won't get help

Tactics that will help you be there for someone who needs support, even if they don’t want to admit it.

This article was written by our community partner, Beyond Blue. Medibank and Beyond Blue are working together to empower all people in Australia to be better connected with knowledge, resources and support to improve their mental health and wellbeing. Visit the Beyond Blue website for more information on mental health and older people.

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People are getting better at asking each other, "Are you okay?" They know to listen without judgement and encourage others to seek professional support if they need it. But for a million reasons, these conversations don’t always go smoothly. Sometimes people don’t want to talk about how they feel, or they’re too embarrassed, or they don’t believe talking to a professional could make things better.

It’s important to remember that people are in charge of their own life. So be patient and present until they’re ready to talk. But it’s also hard to see someone you care about going through a tough time.

So, what do you do when you’ve raised your concerns but your loved one chooses not to seek support?

Beyond Blue

Learn more about anxiety, depression, suicide prevention and ways to support your mental health.

There’s no magic spell that will get them talking but here are some ideas that might help nudge them towards the support they need:

  • Be vulnerable yourself. You don’t want to make the conversation about you, but sharing some of your own hard times can make it easier for them to do the same.
  • Talk about life, not diagnoses. It’s not your job to diagnose their symptoms. But helping them understand the impact the symptoms are having on their life can build motivation to change things. Help them see that life doesn’t have to be this hard. Help them imagine an easier future.
  • Ask them, “How bad do things have to get?” If they’ve acknowledged there’s an issue, asking how bad things need to be before they take action can start a different kind of conversation. What would their life look like at that point? And what would be the benefits of doing something sooner.
  • Say, “If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for me”. Sometimes people don’t seek support because they have such a low opinion of themselves they don’t believe they deserve the support. Pointing out how invested you are in their wellness can help.
  • Mix it up. If your approach isn’t working, try changing your communication style. If you’re usually firm, try being softer. If you’re normally more sensitive, try a direct approach.
  • Be humble. Is someone else better placed to have this conversation? Who might your friend be more inclined to talk to?
  • Play the long game. It can take many conversations, over time, until someone is ready to open up. Without pressuring, be consistent and persistent.
  • Stay connected anyway. Don’t make your friendship conditional on them seeking support.

These tactics simply communicate that you care enough that you’ll do whatever it takes to get them support. And for someone with depression or anxiety, showing them you care is probably the most powerful thing you can do to support them.

24/7 Mental Health Phone Support

Members with Hospital cover can talk with a mental health professional over the phone in relation to any mental health or emotional concern, 24 hours a day 7 days a week on 1800 644 325~.

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Looking for something else?

Visit our Better Minds hub to find more tools and services.

Things you need to know

~ OSHC members should call the Student Health and Support Line on 1800 887 283.

While we hope you find this information helpful, please note that it is general in nature. It is not health advice, and is not tailored to meet your individual health needs. You should always consult a trusted health professional before making decisions about your health care. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them. For these reasons we are unable to accept responsibility for any loss that may be sustained from acting on this information (subject to applicable consumer guarantees).