Knowing What NOT to Say is Also Critical

In this era of Covid, challenges to our mental health abound. Close friends or family members can play important front-line roles in recognizing potential problems and being a source of support. Or they can – unwittingly – make matters worse. If our goal is to help, understanding what to say and what not to say to someone struggling with their mental well-being is critical.

How Can I Best Support My Loved One?

What can we do to help a loved one who we see struggling? How do we know what to say? Mental health advocate Sahaj Kaur Kohli gets this question a lot. A Ted Talk speaker and author, Kohli is a mental-health counselor in training and the founder of Brown Girl Therapy. The organization is the first mental health and wellness community of its kind for children of immigrants. 

“With the multiple crises we’re currently living through, it can feel like more and more people we know are currently hurting.”

Sahaj Kaur Kohli

Kohli offers useful guidelines on what to say or do if you see someone struggling emotionally – and what not to. Her guide to Dos and Don’ts is published on We’ve provided an overview of Kohli’s tips below. Read the whole article for more details about each tip.

What to Say: Eight Dos 

  • DO listen and validate
  • DO ask what they need from you
  • DO offer to help with everyday tasks
  • DO celebrate their wins, including the small ones
  • DO read up on what they’re struggling with
  • DO check in with them regularly
  • DO recognize that not all mental health struggles look the same
  • DO normalize talking about mental health

What Not to Say: Eight Don’ts

  • DON’T compare their experience to others
  • DON’T use stigmatizing language
  • DON’T take their behavior personally
  • DON’T be confrontational or try to control the situation
  • DON’T get discouraged
  • DON’T burn yourself out trying to support your loved one
  • DON’T try to fix them
  • DON’T avoid the feelings that come up for you

 Read the article: How to support a friend or family member who’s struggling with their mental health

Getting Support 

If you are that friend or family member who notices something, it may feel daunting. But you are not alone. Resources and supports are available to help inform and guide communication. Support groups provide forums for sharing information and problem-solving. Individual counseling and advice is freely available (dial 2-1-1, option 2). 

In Vermont, a statewide network of community-based mental-health agencies provides a range of services to support mental and emotional well-being. Find the agency closest to you.

Learn More on What to Say and Do

Here are some other sources for information about what to say or do if you’re concerned about someone you know.

And don’t forget to check out the great resources, links, apps and information at

Blog written by Brenda Patoine on behalf of VCN/Vermont Care Partners for COVID Support Vermont, a grant funded by FEMA and the Vermont Department of Mental Health

Need to Talk?

Call 2-1-1 (in Vermont) for assistance.

In Crisis? 

If you or someone you care for is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can: call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-825; text VT to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor 24/7; connect with your local community mental health center for 24/7 support. 

Find Help

Find resources and tools for coping with stress at

One-click translation to 100 languages of most everything on the website, plus Multilingual Resources.

Find your local community mental health center by visiting Vermont Care Partners.

COVID Support VT is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, managed by Vermont’s Department of Mental Health, and administered by Vermont Care Partners, a statewide network of 16 non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and supports. 

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