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How to Get Someone Mental Help When They Refuse

When it comes to poor mental health, many people struggle to open up and voice their problems or ask for help. There are many reasons why this can happen. The public stigma concerning mental health remains for some, and the concern about what others may think if they ask for help can be overwhelming. Some may have had bad experiences when seeking help previously, may have heard unsuccessful stories from others, or may worry about any possible consequences of getting support.

Know the Symptoms of Poor Mental Health

Before offering someone your help, it is important to recognise the signs or symptoms they may be experiencing and how they relate to any mental illness. While most of the symptoms below could be completely unrelated, it’s worth being aware of them. If you have a feeling any loved one, friend or colleague is struggling with their mental health, the first step is to look out for any of the following to detect a pattern or repetitiveness:


Poor mental health can cause a person to experience an emotional outburst. Extreme distress or anger can be a sign that someone is suffering from a mental illness.

Physical Symptoms

Stress and anxiety can cause physical symptoms including sweating, shaking, dizziness, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, and heart palpitations. Some people may mistake some symptoms for poor physical health without considering any connection with their mental health.   

Weight Fluctuations

Someone’s weight can fluctuate for a variety of reasons but depression and anxiety can be one of them. Mental distress can cause people to eat more or less as a coping mechanism. Contrary, mental illness can also be the result of weight change due to an eating disorder. 

Quiet and Withdrawn

This is a common symptom that friends and family may recognise more easily. A loved one, friend or even colleague may become quieter and limit their interactions when going through poor mental health crises. 

Sleep Problems

When a person is anxious or depressed, they often have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Noticing someone is often tired can be a sign of insomnia which hinders mental health. Nevertheless, for some people, their mental illness leads to sleeping more than usual. 

Substance Abuse or Gambling

Some people gamble, drink excess alcohol, or take drugs to help cope with their poor mental health.

What you Can Do to Help (Even When It’s Not Wanted)

Offer a Listening Ear

Talking about one's problems can help release tension and reduce one’s burden. A problem shared is a problem half solved, but opening up can be a big struggle for some. If you suspect a person is struggling with their mental health, choose a wise time (most likely when no one is around and in a safe environment) and ask if they want to be heard. If they do, listen actively, validate their feelings, and offer your help in the future if they need it (and if you can). If they decline, let them know you’re always there if they change their mind. Ask if there is someone else in their life that they would be more comfortable talking to. For more information about how to ask someone if they’d like to talk, see the R U Ok? website.

Encourage Them to Take Action

Some people would prefer to talk to a professional rather than speaking to a friend or family member. They may not want to cause any burden to others with their problem and want to handle it themselves. A prompt from you may encourage them to eventually take action and make the appointment or call.  

Follow Up

Don’t give up on someone. Just because they have refused your help once doesn’t mean they won’t want it in the future. If you haven’t seen an improvement, follow up in two weeks. Let them know there is professional help available. Offer to make the appointment on their behalf to see a health professional such as their GP. They may feel booking an appointment is too difficult.

Recommend Where They Can Get Help 

Some people know they don’t want help from a friend or family member and would prefer to seek help from a stranger. But not everyone knows where to go for help. Offer to find a suitable service provider that they can make contact with. 

When to Call 000

Calling for emergency services should be used as a last resort. While it can be a difficult situation to deal with on your own, calling 000 should only be for an emergency. If you feel someone’s life is at risk, call 000. 

It’s hard to know how to get someone mental help and even harder when they don’t want it. There’s a fine line between respecting someone’s wishes and being concerned for their safety. Often they just need time to process and find the motivation to reach out. Most times people will open up when they’re ready. If you’re looking for advice on how to help someone with their mental health, contact us online or call 1800 258 487. 

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