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Published on August 12, 2019

Do You Know Someone Who Is Struggling? Here’s How to ‘ACT’

Talking about mental health conditions can be challenging – but it doesn’t have to be if you know the right words to say. Oftentimes, people with the best intentions end up using language that isn't helpful. That’s why it’s important to be mindful of the words you use to show your support. You can use the ACT acronym as an easy way to remember how to help: Acknowledge what they’re feeling; show you Care; and help connect them with Treatment. Here are some tips on how you can ACT:

  • “Tell me more about it.” – Instead of saying things like “get over it” or “you’ll feel better soon,” remember the power of being a good listener.
  • “I’m here for you.” – Show your support by letting your friend or loved one know you care. You may not understand how they are feeling, but you can express your willingness to be there whenever needed.
  • “It’s OK to feel this way.” – People who are struggling with their behavioral health often feel alone and hopeless. Remind your friend or loved one that you are sorry that they’re feeling this way. Fight the urge to come up with simple solutions. Depression is not a simple problem you can easily solve.
  • “What can I do to help you?” – People with depression often feel tired and overwhelmed. Let them know you’re available. Taking on small tasks can make a big difference for someone who is struggling.
  • “This isn’t your fault.” – Depression is a mental health condition that cannot be fixed with just a bit of positive thinking. Avoid saying, “This will pass.” Phrases like this minimize your friend’s or loved one’s feelings.

You can take a free, confidential, behavioral health online screening for yourself or on behalf of a friend or loved one here.

And finally, don’t be afraid to ask someone if they are thinking of suicide and to ask directly “are you thinking of suicide?” Talking about suicide does not make the situation worse and helps the person by encouraging them to open up. If someone is suicidal, do not leave them alone. Take them to the nearest emergency room, call 911, or call the 1-800-273-8255 National Suicide Helpline. If you are unsure, uncomfortable or unable to take action, you can call this number or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting ACT to 741741.

dave miers

About Dr. Dave Miers

Dave Miers, PhD, is the counseling and program development manager for mental health services at Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln, Neb.

He helped establish the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition in 1999 and chaired/co-chaired this Coalition until 2017. He currently serves on the Board of Directors. Dr. Miers is a member of the leadership group for the Lincoln/Lancaster County Suicide Prevention Coalition. Dr. Miers has published research and co-authored a chapter in the Routledge International Handbook of Clinical Suicide Research focusing on family survivors of a child suicide. Dr. Miers helped develop the Lincoln Lancaster Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) team in Lincoln, Neb. He also helped develop other LOSS teams in Nebraska and is active with LOSS team development on a national level.

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