Depression: Am I ok? Are you ok? Talking about mental health

A walker against a blue sky
Mental Health Nurse Adviser, Bupa UK
16 January 2023
Next review due January 2026

Reaching out for support can be hard and talking about mental health can be difficult. Who can I turn to? Where do I go? Or how can I start a conversation? No matter what age, opening up is probably the biggest barrier to seeking help. Don’t feel stigmatised or alone, there is help out there!

Here are some commonly asked questions about how to start a conversation about yours and someone else’s mental health. And, how to seek support.

couple sitting on a branch by the lake

Mental health problems are more common than you think. One in four of us will experience mental health difficulties each year. One in six deal with common mental difficulties like depression each week, that’s why it’s important that we start talking.

Q. Why is it so difficult to talk about feeling depressed?

A. Depression can be hard to talk about for lots of reasons. It isn’t just about feeling sad or unhappy, it’s more than that. Some common symptoms of depression may include :

  • agitation & irritability
  • losing interest in things you usually enjoy and not wanting to be around others
  • isolation & poor motivation
  • struggle to make decisions, a sense that everything feeling hard or overwhelming
  • negative thoughts or dark thoughts
  • poor self-worth & hopelessness
  • fatigue
  • poor diet, self-care & poor sleep
  • thoughts of self-harm, suicide or not wanting to be here

Younger people can have the same symptoms above, as well as:

  • feeling sad
  • having physical sensations like tummy pain or feeling sick
  • not wanting to see friends
  • being self-critical
  • confusion, not knowing what is wrong or struggling to find the words to say how they feel

Q. Why is talking about mental health important?

A. The mental health team at Bupa spend a lot of time listening to and supporting people who may be experiencing depression. We also hear from loved ones who are worried about someone. People find that talking to a professional can be validating and a real relief to get things out of their head and into the open, or can help someone open up. Carrying negative emotions and thoughts around can be distressing, lonely and exhausting. But, opening up is a way to ease the burden and can be a start to your recovery journey. We can then start a conversation about getting the right help from the right provider.

Q. What if I am concerned about someone else’s mental health?

A. If you are concerned about someone’s mental health; a family member, a friend, colleague or pupil, opening up the conversation can really help. Start by asking them if they are okay. Let them know that you are there for them, and keep the lines of communication open. They may not be ready to talk at that moment, but it starts the conversation. And, they may come back to you later or start thinking about seeking help in other ways.

Q. Who should I tell?

A. Go at your own pace and speak to people you know and trust, or feel comfortable with. You might find that they have already noticed that you aren’t yourself. If they ask you if everything’s okay, take the opportunity to say ‘actually, I don’t feel great’ and go from there. It’s okay to not feel okay.

Or, you may find it easier to talk to a GP, a telephone helpline, or a young person specific helpline like Kooth. Lots of people use telephone helplines. In 2020/21 The Samaritans answered a call for help every 10 seconds. The fact that it’s anonymous can often make it easier to open up. This can also serve as a practice run in helping you feel more confident about speaking to those closer to you.

Q. How should I tell someone I’m not alright?

A. Often, somebody close to you has noticed something and may have already asked you if you’re okay. You may have said you’re fine or they may not have asked at a convenient time. Just remember they’re asking because they care if you’re okay, and if you aren’t they would like to help. Start slowly, and only say what feels comfortable to begin with.

Q. What phrases might be helpful to say if I get stuck?

A. ‘I’ve not been feeling too great’ or ‘I don’t feel like myself’ are good starting points. This starts a conversation and allows the other person to hear what you’re saying and respond. Be honest. Say it’s hard to talk about if that’s how you feel, or if you don’t know how to explain it, say that too. There are no right or wrongs, so just say what’s on your mind.

Q. Where should I tell them?

A. It’s probably best to start the conversation somewhere without interruptions if possible. I like to talk to my friends over a cup of tea at home as it’s quiet and uninterrupted, but I know this isn’t the case for everybody with busy homes. Going for a short walk with someone you know could be a good option, if you feel up to it. Walking side by side can help a conversation feel more relaxed and less intense. And being outside also has the benefit of getting you out of the house for some fresh air, which can also help your mood.

Q. What else can help to make it as easy as possible?

A. For some people, speaking to others with experience of depression can be really helpful, as they will understand how you’re feeling. This can help you feel less alone, and lots of people find the mutual support beneficial. Mind, a mental health charity, offers some information on how to find the right peer support for you.

Q. What next – what should I expect or do afterwards?

A. It’s always a good idea to check in with your GP to talk about your symptoms. Your doctor should complete a brief assessment to see if you would benefit from some help. This might be in the form of guided self-help, or treatment such as talking therapy and/or medication. Not everybody needs or wants this, so please don’t let this put you off seeking help. If your doctor suggests treatment, it’s because you are likely to benefit from it. But this is your choice, and you can take your time deciding and talking it over with those you have spoken to.

The most important thing to remember is that there is help and support out there.

If you need help now

This page is designed to provide general health information. If you need help now, please use the following services.

  • Samaritans
    116 123 (UK and ROI) - This helpline is free for you to call and talk to someone.
  • NHS Services has a list of where to get urgent help for mental health.
  • Mind website. Click the ‘Get help now’ button on the page. This is a tool that is designed to help you understand what’s happening to you and how you can help yourself.
  • If you think you might harm yourself or are worried someone else might come to immediate harm, call the emergency services on 999 or go to your local accident and emergency department.

Our health insurance allows you to skip a GP referral in some cases, and speak to a mental health practitioner. Learn more today.

A walker against a blue sky
Lisa Fairclough
Mental Health Nurse Adviser, Bupa UK

    • Mental health facts and statistics., published June 2020.
    • Depression. NICE clinical Knowledge Summaries., last revised October 2015.
    • Depression. Mind., last reviewed March 2019.
    • Impact report 2018/19. Samaritans., published 2019.
    • Nature and mental health. Mind., published November 2021.
    • Young Minds a guide for young people depression Accessed January 2023.
    • CALM – CALM’s guide to depression. Accessed January 2023.

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