Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn

Describing our feelings and emotions to others – or even ourselves – is a difficult task for many of us. As mental health is not something that you can physically see, it’s hard to understand it from a more traditional health care perspective. Regardless, your son’s mental health is as important as his physical health so it’s important to be aware of how you can help him and where to find extra support. Before you can learn how to talk to your son about his mental health, you must be aware of what it is.

Mental health and mental illness

The terms mental health and mental illness are sometimes used interchangeably but it’s important to know the difference between them. Beyond Blue describes mental health as “being about wellness rather than illness”. The emphasis is on a person’s state of wellbeing and their ability to cope with normal life. Mental illness on the other hand, is a health issue that significantly affects how someone thinks, behaves and interacts with others. It affects one in five Australians and includes conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Importantly, people who experience mental illness and their families deserve and need support; this support must also be appropriate to enable the affected people to stay well connected in their community in a meaningful way – whilst having their mental health needs addressed.

Here is a guide on how to approach your son’s mental health.

Look out for signs

It can be hard to know when your son is going through hard times, or something more serious like anxiety or depression. Look out for signs such as withdrawal, loss of appetite or fatigue. Telltale signs can include making excuses for not hanging out with his friends, saying he is always tired or being quick to lose his temper. If you see any of these changes check in to see if he is okay. Sometimes just asking “Are you okay?” can start the necessary conversation.

Listen to him

Listen to what he has to say and do not rush to give advice. Let him know that you are there to help however you can. It’s important to respect his words and be empathetic. Although it seems obvious, remind him that you love and care about him, and that you are happy to listen when he want to talk. By listening and responding in a non-judgemental and reassuring manner, you are beginning to help.

Talk about what’s going on

Knowing what to say can be hard. Saying things like “I’ve noticed that you seem a bit down lately”, and “Is there anything I can do?” shows that you are aware that something is wrong and you want to know how to help. You won’t always have all the answers – and that is fine. Regular, caring and empathetic communication is the key.

Seek help together

Encourage your son to get some support if he needs it, and help him find it. Ask for advice from a friend or family member who has dealt with a similar issue or if it’s more serious, seek out professional help. You can arrange an appointment with a health professional, but make sure that both you and your son attend the preliminary sessions.

Important Resources

There are plenty of resources available as well as free helplines. Here are some to keep in mind:

If you would like to receive fortnightly education insights from The Scots College, subscribe to our enewsletter here.

The Scots College is a proud member of the following associations.

The Presbyterian Church (New South Wales) Property Trust T/A The Scots College, Sydney Australia
| ABN: 86 438 712 994 | CRICOS Provider Code: 02287G

William Elder


Mr Alan Elder was born in Scotland and migrated to Australia with his parents at a young age. He attended The Scots College for all his schooling, graduating in 1944. He played 1st XI Cricket and was a member of the College Cadet Unit. After leaving school Mr Elder studied accountancy and retained a life-long love of the College, especially the Pipes and Drums. Mr Elder never married, however the significant bequest he left will allow his Scots family to remember him through the Lang Walker Business Centre.