As a psychologist and public health specialist who has spent my career focused on social, emotional and mental health promotion, I know that talking about mental health isn’t always easy, but it can help a ton!

This fall we’re facing an unpredictable school year, which means it’s especially important to check in with a friend about how they’re doing. Now more than ever, it can make a huge difference. In the lead up to World Mental Health Day (10/10), I’m excited to help in any way I can.

Have questions about supporting a friend’s mental health? Looking for tips to keep the conversation going once you’ve started talking? Ask me anything!


Thanks everyone for joining my AMA about mental health. If you’re looking for more resources on how to support yourself and your friends, head to

Comments: 277 • Responses: 8  • Date: 

sunnylak11158 karma

What are some tips for checking in on a friend through text message (vs. calling or visiting them in person which is difficult right now)? How do you ask questions that will help them open up?

seizetheawkward200 karma

Hi. The most important thing in checking in with a friend is to simply do it - to let them know you are checking in so your very desire here is great! After that, I recommend asking them directly about how they are. Text is okay, but let them know you have noticed that they might be feeling a little down and ask them an open-ended question about how they are doing - " How are you feeling these days?" or "Is there anything you want to talk about? I am here for you." You can also share what you have noticed so they know why you are asking. Something like, "I have noticed you may feel a little down, are you doing okay? I want you to know I am here for you." You can also head to for more ways to check in and additional questions you can ask a friend.

cocopuffss123106 karma

How can I reach out to someone who suffers from depression and closes themself off from contact when they’re struggling?

seizetheawkward101 karma

Thanks for the question. While you cannot force someone to talk, you can open the door and keep it open by letting them know that you notice that they are depressed (or having a hard time - choose language that you think they can understand and relate to) and that you really want to be there for them. You can also share that you know that keeping feelings inside can make them worse, not better. If they resist sharing, don't give up. You can do this by simply reaching out regularly and inviting them to talk or take walks or simply be together in some way (socially distanced, of course :)). Sometimes just being there, with no direct pressure helps open doors to communication. You can also let them know that you would like to check in with how they are feeling regularly, even if they do not want to talk about it. This can signal that you care and that you are not going to be scared off by their being closed or unwilling to talk at any given time. Asking them to agree is one tiny step toward them being engaged with you and may pave the way for a more "real" conversation later. Most importantly, if you notice anything that scares you - makes you think they might hurt themselves, reach out for help.

mygrossassthrowaway79 karma

Hello Doctor!

Recently, I just CANT REMEMBER anything.

My long term memory seems to be okay, but short term, I am barely capable of keeping anything in there.

It’s anything from where did I put that thing, to what did that person say to me, to did I already ask that question?

Is this a common occurrence in periods of high stress?

Thank you

seizetheawkward82 karma

Hi and yep, short term memory challenges are common with stress, especially if it is prolonged or acute. But, there are other things that can cause this too, like use of certain medications or drugs. Cannabis use is well known to effect short term memory, for example. In any case, trying to reduce stress, increase stress relief practices, like meditation or other practices that calm emotion (since intense emotion interferes with thinking and memory) can really help.

Chtorrr65 karma

What would you most like to tell us that no one ever asks about?

seizetheawkward175 karma

This is such a great question! And, it is not one I can answer easily in a Reddit AMA so well :). But, the one thing I have often wished that all young people knew (and older folks too), is that they are WAY stronger and capable than they tend to think they are. And, I wish they knew that the most powerful north star we all have in life, is simply the things we care about deeply and authentically. How is that?

And, what do you wish you could share that no one ever asks about?

XyroSum30 karma

I have bipolar disorder, extreme anxiety and depression. I just moved to a new house and even before the move, I’ve had no motivation to do anything. So now I’m staring at a house full of boxes that I just can’t seem to begin with because it feels overwhelming. Advice?

seizetheawkward50 karma

Hi. Yes, this sounds challenging! First, it is important to give yourself credit for knowing what you struggle with and how it affects you in times of stress - that is really helpful! It is especially helpful since you can work with what you know about yourself in stressful times or experiences, like moving. So, I would ask yourself to come up with a plan you think might work. For most of us, breaking tasks into small parts and not putting pressure on ourselves to do it all at once, can really help. Consider picking a room or even a part of a room to start with. Also, it can help to start with something easy or fun - just to get it going. It often becomes easier to tackle the big or unpleasant parts of unpacking if you can make the beginning a little more fun or enticing. You can also try making the environment more motivating by putting on music that gets you moving, asking a friend to join you by phone, Skype/zoom, or in person (if it is safe to social distance). Just know that once you get started, it can be a much easier to keep going - often it's the beginning that is tough.

DeadlyLilyThorn9 karma

Hi. This isn't exactly about checking on a friend, but I hope you still answer. My grandpa just died, and he was my grandma's only companion most of the time. She has a history of depression and suicidal ideation. We have people staying with her now on a rotating schedule, but how can I check on her when she is alone without overstepping a boundary or "mother Henning" her?

seizetheawkward21 karma

First, I am so sorry to hear about your grandpa's passing. To lose a grandparent is really hard. It is really, really hard to lose a spouse - especially if they were close and/or together for a long time. I can understand why you would worry and it is so caring of you to want to stay connected. In light of your grandmother's history and age, I might recommend being direct with her and letting her know that you want to check in on her daily/regularly. You can let her know that you are concerned about her being alone and that you want to be sure she knows she is loved and cared for, especially since this is such a tough time. You can even share your worry that she would perceive you as a "Mother Hen" and be as honest with her about the source of your worry and what you need to do to reassure yourself that she is alright.

Banhgiaygio5 karma

Are online self assessment for mental health correct?

seizetheawkward13 karma

Well, that really depends. But, overall to receive a full and accurate mental health assessment, you will need to see a mental health professional. Most online assessments are meant to simply give you an idea about what is going on - they are not meant to diagnose anything. So, if you think you are struggling with a mental health condition, I encourage you to see a professional.

riancb2 karma

My family has on the whole little knowledge about mental health. My sister has told me that she’s struggling with some suicidal thoughts. Any advice on how to start up that dialogue with our parents? Any advice on how best to help educate them? I’ve tried to watch some shows and movies that portray mental illness in an understandable/relatable way, but even comedies like Crazy Ex Girlfriend seemed too “dark” for them. Any recommendations of other media with positive portrayals of the mental health process? We both just figure that it might be easier to have a conversation like the one my sister needs if they have something to latch onto beyond cultural hearsay.

seizetheawkward2 karma

Hi. Using media is a really good idea here! I am glad your sister is also onboard with this idea and that she is interested in talking with your parents. Without knowing more about your family, it is tough to make movie recommendations, but the TV series, " A Million Little Things" has some powerful mental health themes and may not be too dark. There are also some powerful vignettes at that you might check out. Hope this helps!