International Men’s Day: how to tell if someone needs help

Thursday 19 November is International Men’s Day – and Luke Sullivan suggests five tips for helping someone who might be struggling at the moment


Club Captain of the University of Portsmouth Rowing Club, Luke suffers from an anxiety disorder and lost his Dad to suicide. Here, he shares his top tips on practical ways to be there for someone, remembering actions speak louder than words, for International Men’s Day. Over to Luke…

With the current world we live in, many of us are struggling and looking for a way to get through this period. Many have lost their jobs. Freshers at university have been locked into their halls and others have had weddings and funerals postponed. Therefore, it is imperative to check in on our mates.

Many suffer in silence not knowing how to open up. Consequently, being able to spot subtle changes in moods that may imply poor mental health could save that person’s life.

The main behaviour change is social withdrawal. For example, a warning sign can be when your friends start cancelling meet-ups you know that they would not have hesitated to turn up to previously. Or, perhaps when they give suspicious excuses or ignore messages and calls.

Excessive sleeping or not sleeping at all could also be a sign of poor mental health. Although it can be brushed aside easily, being tired 24/7 and having little, to no energy, is a serious symptom of depression. Individuals may also display excessive fear and anxiety. Therefore, these individuals may overthink simple tasks and appear hesitant and question a lot of things that seem trivial to many people.

So, how can we help?

1 – Talk about mental health

The first thing we can do is to talk about mental health more generally in everyday conversation. Also, talk about it in conversations with the individual who is struggling, but don’t direct it at them. If this individual sees you talking more about mental health, they may feel more inclined to open up as the stigma around mental health – and especially men’s mental health – can begin to dissipate.

Being tired 24/7 and having little, to no energy, is a serious symptom of depression

2 – Reassure the individual and let them come to you

One of the most important ways to deal with a situation in which you know that someone is struggling is to let them come to you. Don’t force the conversation on them. They will come to talk when they feel ready. When they come to you, be understanding and reassure them that they are doing the right thing. Thank them. Then point them in the right direction for additional support, should they need it.

3 – When talking to them make your questions more open-ended

Instead of asking: “You’re looking down recently, are you okay?”, ask them: “How are you feeling today?”

Ask twice.

Asking the same question a second time can carry more meaning, so you can find out how they’re really feeling.

Play games with them. You don’t need to ask directly about their mental health

4 – Give them a call or meet up with them

Just saying you are there for someone instantly makes you inaccessible for that individual. I know from experience. They probably won’t approach you.

Therefore, ring them, drive round to their house – when lockdown allows of course. Go for a social-distanced walk with them. Play games with them. You don’t need to ask directly about their mental health.

5 – Regularly check-in

Finally, remember to regularly check-in.

Situations – especially surrounding mental health – can change quickly. Staying in contact frequently and checking in could save that individual’s life.

With the current world that we are living in, it’s good to check in on your mates and family. Remember to be kind and understanding, and we can come out the other side of this stronger than before.

You can read more of Luke’s blogs here.