It often takes a wife, partner, another family member or a best bud to recognise a man’s symptoms of depression. Even if a man suspects he’s depressed, he may be ashamed that he’s unable to cope on his own and only seek help when pressured to do so by a loved one.

Talking to a Bro about depression

Many men don’t exhibit typical depressive symptoms—but rather anger and reckless behaviour—so you may want to avoid using the word “depression” and try describing his behaviour as “stressed” or “overly tired.” It could help him to open up.

How to approach your mate:

  • Give your mate opportunities to talk. It can be helpful to let him choose when to open up. However if he does not initiate conversation about how he is feeling, you should say something to him. Speak openly and honestly about your concerns.

  • Choose a suitable time to talk in a space you both feel comfortable where there will be no interruptions, when you are both sober and in a calm frame of mind.

  • Use ‘I’ statements such as ‘I have noticed....and feel concerned’ rather than ‘you’ statements.

  • Let your mate know you are concerned about them and are willing to help.

  • Rhe doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you, encourage him to discuss how he is feeling with someone else.

How to be supportive:

  • Treat your mate  with respect and dignity

  • Do not blame him for their illness

  • Offer consistent emotional support and understanding

  • Encourage him to talk to you

  • Be a good listener

  • Give him hope for recovery

  • If the person would like information, make sure the resources you provide are accurate and appropriate to their situation.

What to avoid:

  • Telling your mate  to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘get over it’

  • Being hostile or sarcastic

  • Being over-involved or over-protective

  • Nagging

  • Trivialising his experience by pressuring him to ‘put a smile on his face,’ to ‘get their act together’, to 'harden up' or 'man up' etc.,

  • Belittling or dismissing your mate ’s feelings by saying things like ‘You don’t seem that bad to me.’

  • Speaking in a patronising tone of voice

  • Trying to cure him or come up with answers to his problems.

How to encourage your mate to seek appropriate professional help:

  • Ask him if they need help to manage how he is feeling.

  • It is important to become familiarised with services available locally and online.

  • If he feel he does need help, discuss the options he has for seeking help and encourage him to use those options.

  • Encouraging him to see his GP is a good place to start.

What if my mate doesn't want help?

  • You should find out if there are any specific reasons why he does not want to seek help. They may be based on mistaken beliefs. You may be able help him overcome his worry about seeking help.

  • If your mate  still doesn’t want help after you’ve explored his reasons, let him know that if he changes his mind in the future, he can contact you.

  • You must respect your mate ’s right not to seek help unless you believe they are at risk of harming themselves or others.

What if my mate is suicidal?

  • Suicide can be prevented. Most suicidal people do not want to die. They simply do not want to live with the pain.

  • It is important to take suicidal thoughts and behaviours seriously.

  • Openly talking about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life.

  • It is important that you know the warning signs and risk factors for suicide, and the reasons why your mate might have thoughts of suicide.


Helping a mate who is suicidal is complex, however there are three key actions to helping a person who is suicidal:

  1. If you think someone may be suicidal, ask them directly.

  2. If they say yes, do not leave them alone.

  3. Link them with professional help


Do not ignore remarks about suicide. Call the suicide prevention helpline or lifeline in your respective city. You can access BROS GLOBAL's list of mental health, suicide and emergency services here, including men specific services, if any. 

  • Invite him for walks, outings, and other activities. Be gently insistent if your invitation is refused.

  • Encourage participation in activities that once gave pleasure, such as hobbies, sports, or cultural activities, but do not push him to undertake too much too soon.

  • Do not expect him ‘to snap out of it.’ Instead, keep reassuring him that, with time and help, he will feel better.

  • You may need to monitor whether he is taking prescribed medication or attending therapy. Encourage him to follow orders about the use of alcohol if he’s prescribed antidepressants.

  • Help him develop a Safety Plan so he knows what to do to keep himself safe when he feels suicidal again. You can download a Safety Plan app from BeyondBlue Australia called BeyondNow.


Remember, you can’t “fix” someone else’s depression. You’re not to blame for your loved one’s depression or responsible for his happiness. Ultimately, recovery is in his hands.

If you or a Bro you know is need of emergency support immediately, please contact your local emergency number or suicide helpline. Click here to go to BROS.GLOBAL referral listing for major cities globally.

Source: International and MHFA Australia.


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BROS GLOBAL acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia as the first inhabitants of this nation and the traditional custodians of the lands where we are established.

BROS GLOBAL recognises diverse communities who, through their lived experiences, help to guide our research, resources and training development for men's mental health, wellbeing and personal development.

© 2020 by Dr Simon H Yam, BROS GLOBAL, Australia - All Rights Reserved. 

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