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Understanding Stigma and its Effects


Learning objectives

  • Learn how to talk about mental health when people are struggling
  • Learn what to do in a crisis and who to contact


When talking to someone who you think is struggling with their mental health, it is important to understand that you are not an expert, but it is important to care about your friends and the community around you. You can do this by asking people how they are feeling, pay attention to their response and ask how they would like to be supported. 

Avoid intrusive questions, treat everyone fairly and make yourself available just to listen. Empathise with them, listen and seek understanding of what they are going through but don’t feel pressured to find them answers.  

For example, if someone wants to speak to you about their mental health, ask them to tell you how they are feeling, appreciate that it is extremely difficult for them to speak about what they are going through and reassure them that it is positive that they want to talk about what they are going through. 

A good way to wrap up the conversation is to provide them with the details of their local ‘Mind’ so help signpost her to sources of support instead of you telling them what you think is best. This way they know they are getting the best support possible but they also know you are there for them and they can talk to you about their issues. 

Communications Dos

  • Stay near the person but keep an appropriate distance depending on • their age, gender and culture.

  • Let them know you hear them, for example, nod your head and say... “hmmmm.”

  • Be patient and calm.

  • Provide factual information IF you have it. Be honest about what you know and what you don’t know. “I don’t know but I will try to find out about that for you.” 


Give information in a way the person can understand – keep it simple.

Acknowledge how they are feeling, and any losses or important events they share with you, such as loss of home or death of a loved one. “I’m so sorry...”

Respect privacy. Keep the person’s story confidential, especially when they disclose very private events. Acknowledge the person’s strengths and how they have helped themselves.

Communication Don'ts

  • Don’t pressure someone to tell their story.

  • Don’t interrupt or rush someone’s story.

  • Don’t give your opinions of the person’s situation – just listen.

  • Don’t touch the person if you’re not sure it is appropriate to do so.

  • Don’t judge what they have or haven’t done, or how they are feeling. 

  • Don’t say...” You shouldn't feel that way.” or “You should feel lucky you survived.”

Helping someone in crisis

If you think someone is in crisis, encourage the individual to seek support from Samaritans - 116123 from any phone in any country, or phone the emergency services if you are worried someone will harm themselves or others. The most important thing you can do in these situations is to listen and to support them to stay safe. Not everyone experiencing mental health problems will reach a crisis. 

If you reside in the UK, there are training programmes available including ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) and Mental Health First Aid training. 

As usually through online gaming you can’t physically be in contact with people, having contact information of family members when you know your friends or the people around you are suffering from mental health issues can also be extremely useful if you believe they are in crisis. 

Talking to someone who is suicidal

There are a number of different things you can do if someone tells you that they are self-harming or feeling suicidal to help them.

  • Ask open questions, invite them to give a more in-depth response than just a yes/no.

  • Give them time, you might feel anxious to hear their answers, but being with them and helping them feel comfortable gives them the time they need to think and respond.

  • Take them seriously.

  • Try not to judge, you might feel shocked, upset or frightened, but it’s important not to blame the person for how they are feeling: they may have taken a big step by even telling you about it. 

  • Don’t skirt around the topic, suicide is still somewhat of a taboo subject, which can make it hard for people to pen up and feel understood. Direct questions can help someone to start talking about their feelings. 

You can practice your skills in talking about mental health by clicking here.