Mental health

AXA Health 24/7 health support line for members

How to talk about mental health

Tips to help kick-start the conversation

7 July 2023

Whether it’s you who’s struggling with a mental health problem or someone you care about, talking about it can make a huge difference.

But how do you kick start a conversation like that?

We asked our 24/7 health support line for members, consisting of nurses, midwives and pharmacists, for their top tips for talking about mental health.

Here’s what they suggested:

5 tips to help you talk about your mental health

1. Accept that you’re experiencing difficulties and that it’s OK to feel the way you do.

Most of us struggle with our mental health at some point, or points, in our lives; it’s not uncommon and certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

2. Remember you’re not alone 

Whether it’s a member of your family, a friend, colleague, your GP or someone at the end of a helpline, support is available – you just need to reach out for it.

3. If someone asks how you’re doing it’s OK to be honest.

Often when someone asks how we are, we automatically answer that we’re “well” or “fine”. But if they ask a second time, or if they express concern, you can take it they’re genuinely interested, not just making polite conversation, and that it’s OK to be honest about how you’re feeling.

4. If you find it difficult to open up about your thoughts and feelings, try talking while walking or sitting side by side.

It sounds like such a small thing, but taking away eye contact can make it a lot easier to broach difficult subjects openly and honestly.

5. Don’t underestimate the power of talking about your mental health issues.

Far from being a sign of weakness, acknowledging to others that there’s a problem can be incredibly empowering, not to mention a huge relief. It’s also an important step towards accessing the help you need, whether that’s the support and understanding of a loved one, a reduced workload or time off to recuperate, or professional treatment.

And it’s not just for your own benefit; talking openly about your mental health helps break down the stigma that can keep problems hidden and put an end to the silent suffering of others.1

Eugene Farrell, Mental Health Consultancy Lead at AXA Health, looked into the reasons why some men find it difficult to ask for help. You can find his article here: Why do men find it difficult to ask for help?

And what if you’re OK but you’re worried that someone else you know is struggling?

5 tips to help someone open up about mental health

1. Ask twice. If you’re worried someone may be struggling, tell then your concerns and if, when you ask them how they’re doing, their first response is that they’re fine, ask again. Asking twice shows people you’re genuinely interested, not just making polite conversation, and that you’re ready and willing to help.2

2. Be there for them. Make sure they know you’re there to talk to if and when they need you.

3. Avoid pressuring someone to open up. If they’re ready to talk, be ready to listen - without judgement or attempting to ‘fix’ them or offer up a solution. Providing a safe environment for someone to offload makes it easier for them to talk freely and frankly about their thoughts and feelings.

4. Suggest going for a walk. Face-to-face conversations can feel intimidating, especially for someone who’s uncomfortable or unused to talking about their feelings. Walking or sitting side-by-side can be a better way to broach difficult subjects and enable them to talk openly.3

5. If possible, encourage them to seek professional help from their GP or one of the many support services available. If they don’t want to, don’t force it; instead make them aware of the resources available and how to reach them, so they can do so in their own time if they choose to.

Further resources

Mental health centre – AXA Health


You can find more tips to help you talk about your mental health here:

  1. Talking mental health guide – Headstrong
  2. Helping others with mental health problems – NHS Every mind matters
  3. How you can help - Rethink mental illness

Ask our health professionals

You’re not alone. We’re here to help you take care of your health. 

Our email service allows allows you to ask our team of experienced health professionals, including nurses, midwives, counsellors, pharmacists and dieticians, your health related question. 

You don’t have to be a member, and you can ask for yourself or anyone in your family. We’ll get back to you via email, usually within 24 hours, with clear information and support.