Art of Asking About Someone’s Mental Health

By Wasim Kakroo

“AGAR WHO POOCH LE HUMSE KAHO KIS BAAT KA GHUM HAY
TOU FIR KIS BAAT KA GHUM HAY AGAR WHO POOCH LE HUMSE”

MENTAL health can be a sensitive subject to discuss, whether you have a friend who seems anxious or a family member who seems depressed. However, you shouldn’t ignore a possible mental health problem simply because you feel uncomfortable bringing it up. The other person can be eager to discuss their feelings but unsure on how to do so.

A few direct questions might encourage people to open up if they choose to. It also demonstrates your concern for others when you respond to their queries. While enquiring, you should keep in mind that you shouldn’t use these questions as a checklist, because nobody wants to sense that they are being interrogated. However, try to start a discussion by posing a question or two. It’s okay if they aren’t interested in conversing. You can inquire once more later.

Below are some of the ways through which you can attempt to ask for somebody’s mental health:

1. How are things going?

When we ask somebody, “How are you?” it usually sounds casual and hence frequently results in a polite response like “Fine, thanks for asking.”

However, if you’re truly interested in finding out how someone has been doing, wait until later in the conversation. Cut through the small talk and let them know that you are genuinely interested in their wellbeing.

You could make the following observation: “I’ve noticed that lately, you haven’t been taking your walks. Are things all right?”

Alternatively, you might bring up an emotionally upsetting experience the individual has gone through by saying, “I’ve been wanting to ask, how have you been doing since your son passed away.”

No interruptions should be made while the other person is responding. Try to avoid cracking any jokes to lighten the mood. Show that, you can manage simply being by their side, if the other person chooses to share their pain.

2. How much stress have you been experiencing lately?

As opposed to an internal issue like anxiety, it might occasionally be simpler to discuss an external factor like stress. In comparison to directly asking about someone’s mental health, asking about someone’s stress level may seem less intrusive. Yet it can result in a similar discussion about mental health.

3. How has been your appetite and sleep lately?

Sometimes, even when people are hurting emotionally, they feel comfortable talking about outward signs of their emotional pain.

Additionally, mental health frequently has an impact on sleep and appetite. Therefore, a person going through a difficult period can say, “I haven’t been feeling hungry recently,” or “I haven’t slept in a week.”

Your responses to their statements can provide you with a chance to speak further. Acknowledging their pain and expressing your wish for them to feel better can be a genuine way to express your empathy towards their current situation.

You can say something like, “That must be incredibly difficult. Have you considered discussing it with your doctor?”

4. Is there anything you’d like to talk about?

People occasionally require assurance that it’s okay to bring up difficult topics. By inviting them to do so, you can change the topic of the conversation from trivial to important issues.

But don’t force them to talk about the issue if they seem uninterested in discussing about anything. Simply let them know you’re available to listen if they ever want to speak about it in the future.

5. Do you feel comfortable talking to someone?

Your loved one may be hesitant to talk to a therapist. Asking them in a nonjudgmental manner if they’d consider seeking professional help might persuade them to do so.

Talking about therapy as a viable option may at the very least help them become open to the concept if they haven’t been considering it.

Talking about this idea may also show that there is no reason to feel ashamed about visiting a therapist. If they indicate a desire to receive help, you can offer to take them or to assist them in making an appointment.

Reminding the person that they can talk to an online therapist might also be useful. Many people perceive online counseling as less threatening than face to face counseling.

6. How can I help you?

When you have a mental health issue, simple chores become much more challenging. Someone who is having a hard time feeling good would appreciate your help. Help can take many different forms, from getting groceries to providing emotional support through regular video calls.
However, if they are unsure of what they require, don’t be shocked. Offer particular assistance if you observe something that could be useful, such as, “Can I assist you today with some household tasks?”

7. When would be the most ideal time to contact you once more?

Don’t force your presence in somebody’s life by saying, “I’m going to call you several times a day simply to make sure you’re OK”. Over-involving yourself in someone’s life will probably make them want to avoid you.
However, you can ask and let them know that you’d like to speak with them again. Find out when they would like you to call them or contact them by asking them about it. Its okay if they want you to text them today evening or see them in a few weeks. Just follow through and do what you claim you’re going to do to show that you’re sincere.


  • The author is a licensed clinical psychologist (alumni of Govt. Medical College Srinagar) and works as a consultant clinical psychologist at Centre for Mental Health Services (CMHS) at Rambagh Srinagar. He can be reached at 8825067196

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