Talking About Mental Health Concerns

Parent Initiated Conversations

If you’re concerned about the mental health of your teenager or young adult, but they haven’t said anything about having difficulties:   

  • Ask how things have been going for them lately. What’s been good? Is there anything that has been troubling for them?
  • Use everyday language to talk about the changes you’ve seen – not as “symptoms” or “mental health problems”. Example: “I’ve noticed that you haven’t really been going out much lately.”
  • The goal is to try and figure out what has led to the changes you’ve noticed.
  • Talk while doing an activity – this makes the conversation less intimate and easier to talk about personal troubles.
  • Treat them like an adult – they’re almost there!
  • Ask them what they would like to do or think they need. This is great opportunity to help them learn how to solve problems - an important life skill.
  • When it comes time to work on finding solutions, make problem solving a collaborative effort.
  • It never hurts to remind them how much you care about them and you’re there if they want to talk.
  • Help connect them with resources. Suggest that they visit


Youth Initiated Conversations

Research tells us that young people often will turn first to their friends and family about problems. Here are some additional suggestions for when your young person turns to you for help:

  • Don't panic (breathe deep, stay calm).
  • Just listen. Show that you are taking their concerns seriously. Dismissing their concerns, judgmental statements or giving superficial advice will likely shut down any further conversation.
  • Empathize with them. Let them know you understand what they are feeling. “It sounds like you’re feeling (the emotion) about/because (situation or event).”
  • Be curious ("Tell me more"). Don’t assume you know what your young person is going through.
  • Ask how you can best help. Your young person might just want some advice on what they should do or may want you to be very involved in helping them.
  • Acknowledge their ability to recognize their feelings and their courage in coming to you. (I'm really proud of you…”) This is also an opportunity to point out that all of us have problems from time to time.

For some additional tips on what to say and not say, check out:


If you need help finding services or would like to access support for yourself, contact:

Kelty Mental Health Centre


The F.O.R.C.E. Society


Information and help for psychosis


Information on collaborative and proactive solutions