Support Groups Find Therapist Events Calendar Online Store

ADAVICSocial SupportInformationResourcesProfessional HelpOnline Store

What do we do when someone is refusing to seek help?

It can be very difficult when you have to witness somebody you care about go through mental illness. When mental illness hits, it can impact on the person with it in a number of ways. It can also affect the person’s family and friends as the last thing you want is for the person you love to suffer alone or in silence. 


You might see signs that a person may be experiencing some degree of hardship or mental illness. These can include (but are not limited to):

  • A significant change in behaviour 
  • Witnessing things that are out of character
  • Lack of interest in day-to-day activities
  • Disturbances of thought
  • Expressing thoughts that are not in tune with reality
  • Self-harm or suicidal thoughts
  • Isolation – noticing that the person has stopped reaching out to family or friends 
  • Excessive alcohol or drug use


A common reaction after witnessing a significant change in behaviour would be to encourage that person to seek support or potentially get professional help. However, this can prove to be quite challenging sometimes. Given that this can be a confusing and sensitive time for the individual themselves, they may be reluctant and hesitant to reach out and seek support for themselves. 


Before you try to help someone, it is important to consider what might be deterring the individual from reaching out. Here are some common reasons as to why a person may not be willing to get help:

  • Denial
  • Shame
  • Lack of insight
  • Believing that their mental illness might fix itself


When a person refuses to seek help, it can often invoke a mixture of feelings relating to frustration, powerlessness and worry for the person concerned. 


Here are some key tips to keep in mind when trying to encourage a person to seek help:

1. Express your concerns 

  • Find a suitable time to discuss you concerns and reiterate to the person that you are there to support them
  • Let the person know about the changes in behaviour you have noticed

2.        Approach it in a sensitive manner

  • Be understanding and compassionate
  • Avoid conveying your message in a way that may come across as accusatory or as if you are casting blame
  • Consider that the person may have a range of emotions about their current situation and how they feel about seeking support
  • You can even offer to accompany them to go see a doctor so that they know they aren’t alone

3.        Accept that you cannot force the issue

  • Recognize that if you try to pressure a friend to get help, it may have the opposite effect. 
  • At the end of the day, the journey to accepting that there is a problem to deal with is theirs alone, unless they fit the criteria schedule under the Mental Health Act for treatment (GPs and psychiatrists are qualified to complete this assessment).

4.        Remain supportive

  • If your offers of advice are being rejected by the person, you may need to take a different approach to the way you are supporting them.
  • You can always let them know that you will be there for them.

5.         Set boundaries and look after yourself

  • Set limits on the things you know you are willing to do and the things you might not be able to.
  • Set boundaries for your own wellbeing and recognize that you cannot be the sole person responsible for their health and happiness.
  • Trying to support someone can take an emotional toll on yourself. Consider seeing a health professional to deal with the range of feelings experienced and make time to engage in self-care. 


Who else can help?

  • General Practitioner (GP) – A GP is a great starting point for support. They will also be able to make further referrals to specialist professionals if required.
  • Psychologist – can use therapy as a treatment for a wide range of mental health problems or concerns.
  • Psychiatrist – a Medical Practitioner who uses therapy and can also prescribe medication for medical concerns and mental illness.
  • Social Worker – a health professional that can provide information, ongoing support, and counselling.
  • Your local mental health crisis team or the police or ambulance must be contacted if there is any risk of immediate danger to the individual or others. 


Written by Shaznin – ADAVIC Volunteer


self-funded organisation
. We welcome your contributions
donations, and memberships.

If you would like to sponsor ADAVIC
or help with fundraising, please
contact the ADAVIC office.

Sign up for our eNews letter: