Illustration of a man helping his friend out of metaphorical quick sand

Finding the words can be the hardest part of reaching out to someone. You don’t need to be a mental health expert to say things effectively, though. Speaking as your authentic self is enough. If you’re looking for some ideas for what to say, many Emotional Support Humans use these phrases.

"How have you been feeling, lately, really?"
"What can I do to help you feel better?"
Use feeling words.
Try asking about:
"Is this a good time to talk? When is a better time?"
"It might just be me, but you haven’t seemed like yourself lately. Is everything OK?"
"Are you dealing with a stressful time right now?"

When you first reach out, it may feel like you’re shouting across a wide and deep valley to connect.

"Hey, you haven’t been responding to my texts lately. Are you OK?"
"How is therapy going?"
If you know someone is in therapy, it’s OK to ask them about it.
"Is anything bringing you joy this week?"
"Tough times in the news today. How are you holding up?"
Do not say “things could be worse.”
Instead ask, “What can I do to help you feel better?”
Do not say “you’re probably just tired.”
Instead, use feeling words to ask about their stress, worry, or sadness.
Do not tell someone to “get over it” or “snap out of it.”
Instead, ask what you can do to help them feel better.

It’s OK if long—or even awkward—pauses fill your conversation. Embrace it. For many, that is a place of healing, processing, and a moment to take deep breaths.

Be open minded. Be ready to listen. Be a patient Support Human.

Remember, just because you started the conversation doesn’t mean you can’t include others in it. If someone needs more support than you’re able to offer, seek a professional for help. Find local mental health resources here.

Download these tips (PDF)