#Check5 and other difficult conversations

When someone you care about is going through a rough patch, it can be hard to know what to do or say. We’ve been encouraging people to check in with five mates, but not everyone finds it easy to talk. Luckily, there are resources and strategies available to help you talk to and care for a loved one.

Open Arms offers free access to LivingWorks Start, a one-hour online program that teaches participants how to recognise when someone is thinking about suicide and how to connect them to professional help and support.

Providing a safe space for someone to talk is important, however, this might feel like a daunting task. Before you look out for others, you need to look out for yourself. If you're not in the right headspace or you don't think you're the right person to have the conversation, try to think of someone else in their support network who could talk to them.

When planning a chat, it is important to choose the right moment, practice good listening skills and follow up on both their and your own mental health.


Plan a time to talk without interruptions and have the conversation in private, if possible. You might find it helpful to talk while engaging in another activity. For example, you could talk together as you play sport, wash the dishes, clean the yard, go for a walk or drink coffee.

To start a conversation, keep it simple and direct. You might say: I’ve noticed X, Y and Z ... Are you ok?

Just be yourself and take the time to listen. Listen to the person without judgement and reassure them that you care.

You could let them know: you want to hear what they have to say, even if it's difficult for them to say.

If you can’t meet in person, you could also call or write. This could be a simple text or email:

  • Hey mate, how are you doing today?
  • Hey mate, how have you been? Would you like to catch up for a walk?
  • Hey mate, do you have anything planned this weekend? We have a spare seat at our table for dinner if you’re free?


Actively listen to their answers. You do this by listening, reflecting and seeking clarification: It sounds like you’re feeling angry because of XYZ, am I right?

Take what they say seriously and don't interrupt or rush the conversation. This is not the time to argue with them, to tell them you know how they feel, or try to solve their problems. This is the time to listen, reflect and clarify.

Encourage them to explain: How are you feeling about that? or How long have you felt that way?

If they need time to think, sit patiently with them in silence. Allow them time to vent if they want to. Don’t be afraid to allow silence.

While it is important not to jump to solutions or try to ‘fix their problems’, where appropriate it is useful to be positive about the role of professionals in getting through tough times.

You could say: it might be useful to talk to someone who can support you. I'm happy to help you find the right person.

Our peer and community workers also help others by sharing their stories.

Self-harm or suicidal thoughts should always be taken seriously.

The RUOK website has some further tips on how to talk to someone.

Seeking support

Reaching out to a professional can feel like a daunting step, so you might want to offer support for the person to do this. For example, you could choose a support person together or offer to make or take them to an appointment.

Open Arms offers free and confidential counselling to serving personnel, ex-serving ADF personnel, and their family. Call 1800 011 046 for more information.

We also offer a range of self-help tools that can help you or the person you care about feel calm, take some time out and think more clearly about a situation.

Your GP is another good place to start, with tailored health checks available for the ex-serving community, and the ability to direct your family member or friend to the appropriate professional care.

Follow up

Put a follow up reminder in your diary to call them in a couple of weeks. If they're really struggling, follow up with them sooner.

You could say: I've been thinking of you and wanted to know how you've been going since we last chatted.

These types of conversations can be stressful to have, so you should seek help for yourself and also have an opportunity to debrief if required.

For immediate help when life may be in danger, call 000.