Check in with someone if worried about their mental well-being

Date published: 09 September 2017

People are being urged to check in with someone if they're worried about their mental well-being and ask them how they are feeling. Mental health problems can affect anyone at any time of life and in different ways. Anyone who is in distress or despair can contact the Lifeline helpline on 0808 808 8000.

Start a caring conversation

People are encouraged to start a caring conversation with someone they may be concerned about and let the person know about that concern.

Give them the space to explain what is going on with them and how they are feeling. 

Offering a gentle word of support and listening in a non-judgemental way can make all the difference. Encourage them to tell their story in their own way and at their own pace, and let them know that you will support them to find the help that they need.

By asking the person the questions, ‘are you feeling a bit low?’ or ‘are you worried about something?’ you are acknowledging their distress and giving them the chance to talk about something that is probably very frightening for them.

It is even ok to ask someone if they have had thoughts about harming themselves or about suicide.

Talking about how they are feeling could be the first step towards recovery.

You can find information on what you can say and do to help someone on this Public Health Agency leaflet

Recognising potential warning signs

There are some early warning signs that may indicate mental ill-health or a mental health problem, including:

  • mood swings or a consistently lower mood
  • lack of care for personal appearance or personal responsibilities
  • increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • talking about not wanting to live
  • a loss of interest in doing things they previously enjoyed
  • withdrawing from social activities or spending less time with family and friends
  • disturbed sleep, perhaps not getting enough sleep or sleeping too much
  • eating less than normal or overeating, perhaps losing or gaining weight
  • being more irritable, over-sensitive or aggressive
  • having difficulty following a conversation, remembering things or concentrating
  • experiencing recurrent physical symptoms such as aches and pains or unexplained illnesses
  • a drop in work performance
  • doing things that don’t make sense to others
  • hearing or seeing things that no-one else can hear or see

Someone who’s having suicidal thoughts may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want help and support. It can be difficult finding the words to express what they are feeling.

You can find out more about what to do if you think someone might be in need of immediate help on the Mental health emergency - if you're in crisis or despair page.

You can find out more about mental health at the pages below:


If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, contact Lifeline on:

This is a confidential service, where trained counsellors will listen and help immediately on the phone and follow up with other support if necessary. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

More useful links


Share this page


Would you like to leave feedback about this page? Send us your feedback