What stops you from asking whether the human in front of you, in person, or on zoom, is doing OK today?

  • It’s not the done thing in this context to ask about mental health. Maybe we have a judgement about the individual and that is influencing us.
  • Lack of understanding. A lack of knowledge and information about mental health has created misunderstanding.
  • A perception that by talking about, asking about mental health you might be exacerbating the “problem”.
  • You are concerned about the emotional intensity. What if it gets too much for me/ for them?
  • Feeling uncertain about the situation, your reaction, their reaction.
  • Fear of rejection as the person dismissed your concerns as nonsense.
  • Being unable to find the “right” time or and “right” place.
  • Cultural and social factors make it difficult to approach.
  • Your personal or professional boundaries.

Are any of these good enough reasons to avoid the connection with a fellow human?

I know it’s easy to be worried that you might not get it right. You might say the wrong thing. You might have jumped to the wrong conclusions. Yet, by asking someone how they are doing, and meaning it, there’s a real possibility it could be the catalyst for a significant change for that person. And you might save a life. Not checking in can mean that person feels they are not worth it, that no one really wants to know they aren’t coping well.

Study after study has shown that when a human is struggling, and they feel someone is listening, sees them, hears them, they can press pause. They can take a breath. They can talk about the impact their challenges are having. It’s not that you are offering good advice, or telling them how to fix their problem, or offering to do it for them, it’s more about connecting.

We get distracted by noise that tells us we can make things worse. I wonder where the evidence is for this notion. The hard evidence rather than the anecdotes. Are we really saying that two humans cannot engage in a conversation about mental ill health?

Slowly we seem to be moving away from human connection, compassion, interest, empathy, and into a world where we need a qualification to ask someone how they are doing today.

Be part of the solution not by trying to fix, but by being a good human.


This blog was written by Anne Archer, ICF PCC, MSc Psychology of Wellbeing, Trauma informed Coach, Supervisor and passionate advocate for smashing the stigma of mental health.

Read more blogs from Anne: Navigating the continuum of mental health in a coaching session