It’s the love and support of George Bailey’s family and friends that gives It’s A Wonderful Life its happy ending (our inspiration for It's a Wonderful Line). And that’s something we could all do with from time to time. Our brilliant charity partners Rethink Mental Illness have put together some simple tips to help us all look after our friends, family and ourselves this festive season.

Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they’re ok

We know starting a conversation isn’t always easy. But it doesn’t have to be awkward. Being there for someone can make a huge difference, especially at Christmas when it can feel like everyone else is having fun except you.

Where mental health is concerned, there’s no one ‘right’ way to talk and no ‘right’ place either. The main things to consider are that the conversation you’re having is safe and discreet.

If you’re not sure how to get started, here are a few tips from Rethink Mental Ilness’ Time to Change team.

1. Start small

Lots of people find talking in person intimidating, and that’s understandable. But it doesn’t need to stop you from starting a conversation altogether. You could make a quick phone call, send your friend a text, or write a note for a parent.

2. Find a good time and place

Sometimes it’s easier to talk side by side rather than face to face. If you do talk in person, you might want to chat while you are doing something else. You could start a conversation when you’re walking, cooking or stuck in traffic.

3. Ask questions (gently!)

There are lots of misconceptions around mental health. Asking questions can be an important way of learning. Just remember not to get too personal and try to be aware if the conversation is making someone feel uncomfortable.

4. Be open

Being open and honest with others can help build trust. You might want to tell your friend something they don’t already know about you. Of course, don’t feel pressure to share anything that you’re not comfortable with.

5. Treat them the same

When someone experiences poor mental health, they’re still the same person they were before. And that means that if they’ve opened up about something, they don’t want to be treated any differently. If you want to help someone, keep it simple. Do the things you'd normally do.

Make a Christmas gift to help someone who needs it

At any one time, one in four of us in the UK is affected by poor mental health. That applies at Christmas just like the rest of the year. Rethink Mental Illness help people who experience mental illness, and they help their families and carers to provide that all-important support too.

So, if you’re able to, please donate to support their vital work. Large or small, a gift at Christmas will help them support more people all year round. You can donate now here.

Help is at hand

If you’d like more information, support for yourself or for someone you know, Rethink Mental Illness have loads of helpful information and free factsheets on their website:

The charity’s “How you can help” guide offers practical advice on recognising and responding to common distress signals. Download it for free here.

If you’d like face-to-face support with your own mental health or help with caring for a family member affected by mental health problems, Rethink Mental Illness runs support groups. These sorts of groups provide a safe place for people to share experiences and to gain mutual support. Find your nearest support group here.

For expert advice and practical help on absolutely any aspect of living with mental illness, you can call the Advice Service at Rethink Mental Illness on 0300 5000 927 9:30am – 4pm, Monday - Friday, or email [email protected].

You can also contact Samaritans if you want to talk to someone right now. Any time, day or night. Whatever you're going through, call Samaritans free on 116 123.

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