Listening is one of the most helpful things you can do to support someone.
Try not to judge or give advice. You can start by saying
I am worried about you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately or
I have noticed that you have been doing (state behaviour), is everything ok?
I just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing – how are you?
Do you fancy a catch up; I’d love to know how you’ve been recently.
You can tell me as much or as little as you like – we can talk about anything you’re comfortable with.
You many also want to ask some questions like
What can I do to help you?
Can you describe how you are feeling in your body when you describe (enter issue)?
Have you thought about getting help from a counsellor or Doctor? I can help make an appointment if it would help?
What does help look like to you? What doesn’t help so that we can avoid it in future?
What support have you called on so far?
Would you like me to drive you to the appointment/come in with you?
Would it be ok if I checked in on you (enter frequency or date)?
And also saying things like ‘I want to help you and I am here for your when you want to talk’ can really help a person open up or know that there is someone there for them when they are ready or need to talk.
Listen properly to their answers. Ask open ended questions. Don’t push for more detail than they are comfortable sharing. Don’t assume anything. Don’t turn the conversation around to you – this is their time to talk and be heard. If you have experienced something similar it’s ok to say you’ve been where they are but bring the conversation back to how they are feeling.
If you haven’t experienced anything similar, be honest and say something like “I can’t imagine how difficult that is but I want to understand”.
If in doubt go with your gut instincts. Why is this important? Because this might be the only time they feel comfortable in opening up – a positive experience could give them the reassurance they need to seek further support.