Talking to your mate

Talking to someone you know about mental health or suicide can seem like a daunting task. You may be wondering how to start the conversation, or what to say.

Men, in particular, can find it challenging to talk, so we have put together some useful information about having difficult conversations with a mate.

For a lot of men, talking about their emotions does not come naturally. They might be worried about what others will think of them, believe that they don’t have anyone who will listen, or they don’t want to be a burden. The sad fact is that men make up an average of 6 out of 8 suicides every day in Australia, with the number of men who die by suicide double the national road toll. However, at Lifeline WA, we know that men are much less likely to pick up the phone and ask for help, with only 27% of callers to our crisis support centre being male.

A source of support and connection for men can come from spending time with mates and knowing how to talk to someone about mental health and suicide can be extremely important.

As an acknowledgement of Men’s Health Week, we’ve put together some information that might help you start a conversation about mental health.

When you might need to talk to a mate about his mental health or suicide

Noticing changes in a person can often be the first sign that something isn’t right. Speaking to them about it shows that you have noticed and can help to make them feel less alone and more supported. These are some of the warning signs your mate might be struggling with his mental health:

  • If you notice he isn’t his usual self and hasn’t been for some time
  • Your mate is down, lacking energy and motivation
  • He isn’t enjoying things that he usually does
  • Is withdrawing from family and friends
  • Is engaging in risk taking behaviour such as increased alcohol or drug use.

If you are worried your mate is thinking about ending his own life, let him know that you are concerned and ask him directly about it. Don’t be afraid to ask the question – “I’ve noticed you haven’t been yourself lately and I’m worried about you, are you thinking of taking your own life?”

When someone tells you they are thinking about suicide, it is normal to be angry or fearful. Try to put these feelings aside while responding to your mate by remaining calm and as non-judgemental as possible. Attempt to validate their experience by acknowledging how they feel without dismissing it. Try responding with something such as What you’re going through is really difficult, it makes sense that you are in pain”.

Contrary to what many people think, asking someone directly if they are thinking about suicide does not put the idea in people’s minds. Research shows that opening up the conversation can be a relief for people who are thinking of ending their own life and can allow them to discuss it without bringing it up themselves, as well as showing them that someone has noticed they are not ok.

For more information on conversations with mates please click here: www.thinkmentalhealthwa.com.au/supporting-others-mental-health/how-to-help/helping-men/

How to get support for your mate

While talking about mental health and suicide is the first step in getting your mate help, accessing professional supports is also important.

If your mate is in immediate risk, contact his doctor, your local mental health crisis service or emergency services.

For advice you can call Lifeline 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

If they are not at immediate risk you can urge your mate to see their GP, connect with a mental health professional or contact MensLine, available 24/7 on 1300 789 978. 

A list of additional services can be found below.

Beyond Blue- Looking out for your mates: www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/men/looking-out-for-your-mates

Sane, Men’s Mental Health: www.sane.org/information-stories/the-sane-blog/caring-for-others/mens-mental-health-how-to-seek-help

WA Mental Health Commission Helplines: www.mhc.wa.gov.au/getting-help/helplines

Find a Psychologist: www.psychology.org.au/Find-a-Psychologist

Lifeline WA also delivers workshops like Mental Health First Aid that can give you extra tools for your toolbox when approaching these conversations. LivingWorks Start teaches suicide prevention skills in as little as one hour online. It is currently discounted and using this link supports Lifeline WA.

If you or someone you know needs support please call 13 11 14, available 24/7.

Image Credit: Photo by Kristian Gonzalez on Unsplash