The image spilt in two down the middle with the left image being of a promo picture of a scientist covered in toxic liquid which was created by Time To Chane for their Ask Twice To Support People Who Might Want To Talk campaign. The right image is of a couple sitting together outside, talking

Ask Twice To Support People Who Might Want To Talk

The Ask Twice campaign fronted by Time to Change designed is designed to get men talking about their mental health because sometimes asking once just isn’t enough. If you’ve read my previous article, ‘Why Do I Say “I’m Fine” When Actually I’m Not?‘ then you’ll know we often lie about how we’re really doing, so asking twice is a way to let men (or anyone) know you’re actually interested in an honest answer.



Getting Started With Ask Twice


I became a Time To Change Champion because I wanted to know how I could do more to help reduce the stigma around mental health. In the process of joining this programme and undertaking their training, I became aware that they’re doing their Ask Twice event on the 19th of November, hence writing this article. I created this article in the hope that it’ll inspire you to look into ways of how you can help destigmatize mental health in your life and your local community.


Time to Change "let's end mental health discrimination" image created for the Ask Twice campaign


The first thing to be aware of is that if you don’t feel comfortable about people sharing with you what’s honestly going on in their lives, then that’s ok, don’t ask twice. But if you do want to support those around you, then there are a few steps you can take to help you feel more comfortable.


However, you don’t need to be an expert, you’re just going to be someone they can talk to, someone who’ll listen, you don’t need to be a fountain of knowledge with a bag of tips, tricks, and advice easy at hand. This is a conversation, not a counselling session.




Asking twice is important because people will say “I’m fine” 14 times a week, with only 19% of those who say that actually meaning it (Mental Health Foundation). Because of statistics like this, it’s important to ask twice, as asking twice signals that you’re ready to listen to what they really have to say.


More often than not, most people just need to rant and get things off their chest. But even in situations where this isn’t the case, just talking about it and not feeling judged for it is enough to start them on the path to getting more appropriate support. The purpose of asking twice is to normalise talking about mental health and to make it normal to seek help.


About a year ago, I wrote about how I was there for a friend who opened up about their current issues and how they were coping, and I’m glad I was. It wasn’t awkward at all. But it was good to know they felt safe enough to talk to me about it.


The basic premise of the asking twice campaign is that if you notice that your mate is acting differently, then you ask twice.



Ask Twice: A Guide


Take it seriously

This is important, and there’s no shame if you can’t, in which case just don’t ask twice. However, if you are going to ask twice to get a meaningful conversation about how someone is doing, you need to be prepared. Due to the stigma that surrounds mental health and other factors, it can be embarrassing and exposing to talk openly about what’s really going on with your thoughts and feelings, especially if they’re disturbing.


Don’t treat it like a joke and certainly don’t laugh. This is especially true if a man is sharing information about being the victim of abuse by a woman. Men are less likely to report abuse or rape because of society’s notion that if you’re a man, then you can defend yourself. Therefore, treat this as a serious conversation, because this will be very real to them.


Listen and reflect

No one expects you to have all the answers, even professionals don’t have all the answers. Listening is enough. You’ll be surprised how big of an effect just listening can have. 


Peppering your listening with some simple reflections will help the conversation flow. It doesn’t take much, just simple comments like: “That sounds difficult” and “I can understand why you’re having a hard time”.



Body language

Use positive and relaxed body language. If you look stiff and have defensive body language, like having your arms crossed, then you’ll be sending out a message that you’re not comfortable being in this conversation.


Ask questions

If you’re feeling up to it, then you could also ask some open-ended questions. But if you’re feeling like it might be prying, then you can add a modifier to the end of your questions (“It’s ok if you don’t want to answer”), giving them the option to not answer without any pressure being added.


Asking questions is a good way to help someone open up and keep the conversation going, and using open-ended questions gives the other person more scope to reply. But what do I mean by open-ended questions? Simply put, there is no binary yes or no style reply to the question. A closed question would say “Are you depressed?” which can be answered yes or no, although some people might still answer differently. Whereas, an open-ended question would be to say “How are you feeling?”


Examples of some of the open-ended questions you could ask:

  • “How does that make you feel?”
  • “What kind of thoughts are you having?”
  • “How and what can I do to help?”


Promo picture of a man pinned under a large rock created by Time To Chane for their Ask Twice To Support People Who Might Want To Talk campaign


Don’t try to fix it

You’re not the handy person here to fix a leaky roof or a broken table leg. You don’t need to fix the person. I know that’s hard, as I’m often driven to try to fix a problem when it’s presented to me. But this is a conversation, not a counselling session, and change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not your job to make their mental health problem go away, even if you are asking twice to get a conversation going about their mental health.


Just treat this conversation like what it is, a conversation. Listening and asking the occasional open-ended questions is enough. Just be normal together.


Build your knowledge

If someone opens up to you about something that you don’t really know anything about, then you may want to learn more about it so you can be more supportive. There are a lot of personal stories out there you could read, or, if they’ve given you a specific diagnosis, then you could look that up on a trusted website, like the NHS, which has a list of conditions they have information on.


If you’re concerned about them, then you might want to know some professional support information you can share with them. I’ve got a lot of information on organisations that offer this kind of support, so feel free to check out my Global Crisis Lines And Support and UK Crisis Lines And Support for such information. Mind also has a guide on seeking help for mental health, which is useful.


I also have an article on what to do in a crisis situation, should you find yourself in that situation, although this is unlikely, which you can find here: Suicide And Suicide Prevention. You could also check out Rethink Mental Illness, which also has a guide for what to do in a crisis.



My Personal Experience


In my experience, my partner often has to ask me twice, if not more, about if I’m alright when it comes to my mental health. It also helps if they add their observation when they do ask.


I’m not one to share my mental health dips with anyone. I’m so used to going it alone and figuring out my own problems because professional help has never actually helped me. But weirdly, at the same time, I have no problem talking about my mental health problems and the history of those problems. It seems to be the here and now I don’t like sharing as I don’t want to worry people who don’t understand that my ups and downs and constant suicidal ideation are just normal for me.


I also often ask twice myself if I think someone I know isn’t their usual self, even though I hold back on my own current issues. So let’s spread the message, it’s time to change how we engage with people, it’s time to talk, and time we all started to ask twice.


As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences of asking twice and talking about mental health with friends and family in the comments section below as well. If you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.


Lastly, if you’d like to support my blog, then you can make a donation of any size below as well. Until next time, Unwanted Life readers.





61 thoughts on “Ask Twice To Support People Who Might Want To Talk

  1. Informative post I enjoyed reading. This got me to think of reaching out and ask twice on the current situation I’m having with my friend just now. Thank you for sharing your lovely informative work.

  2. Your article is great and timely , as tomorrow is international men’s day. I agree with you that boys are not raised to open-up about their problems. I loved the idea of asking twice and the tips you have given on how to support a person, are useful and helpful as well, I hope reading your article helps many, who are struggling, and others who wants to help. Your are doing great with your time and I am happy that I read this article.?

    • Thank you. If it hadn’t been for Time to Change I wouldn’t have known it was International Men’s Day for which they’re doing their Ask Twice campaign on to mark the day, which allowed me to create this post for it

  3. Asking people one time if they are ok or not won’t work. Not all people want you to know if are not ok. You have to observe their body language. And of course, listen and reflect is the most important.

  4. This article is very important. I do like the idea behind Ask Twice, sometimes it takes time before a person can feel comfortable enough to open up to you with their problems, even if it’s a close one. Thanks for sharing, another great and very interesting article!

    Olivia |

  5. When I was teaching, many moons ago, we were taught to ask twice and it’s something I’ve tried to continue to do in the rest of my life and different areas. I hope that the future males in my life will be able to open up and feel comfortable to do so!


  6. I am married to a non-communicator (as I call him) who feels deeply. It can be like pulling teeth to get him to vocalize. But things always seem to improve when her does. It’s a skill that one has to learn, but it’s worth it.

  7. What a great idea – so simple, yet so effective. I must admit, I’m not one for talking about my feelings – it wasn’t a conscious decision, just the way I was brought up. Societal norms have a lot to answer for.

  8. I really enjoyed this post. Men are often forgotten about or expected to be strong and hide their emotions. We must all work together to support men and make them comfortable to talk about mental health.

    xo Erica

  9. I love this! It’s heartbreaking to see the stigma on men’s mental health – both of the men closest to me (my partner and father) both have anxiety and my partner has mild OCD. I’m beyond grateful for both of them that they’re alive in a time that’s increasingly aware and open about mental health (although nowhere near perfect). Coming from the UK, the “stiff upper lip” mentality that’s imposed on men especially is nothing but harmful

  10. Thanks for sharing, I know my workplace is pretty good with offering support for mental health issues, though I do find the formalised route difficult to turn to because to be honest I feel uncomfortable talking to people I don’t know, though don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that they have this for anyone who wants to use this!

    My personally preference is to talk to friends about issues – like you say sometimes you just need a rant about something, rather than solutions. During these times I am concious I’ve not always been as good at checking in with my friends, so I try just dropping messages to open up conversation or asking if it’s okay to ring.

  11. Loved the article. I think that we need to increase awareness regarding mental health as you are currently doing because it is still not taken seriously in a lot of communities. Thank you for the valuable information and I will make sure to ask twice 🙂

  12. This is great advice. Too often, those who are struggling do everything they can not to show that they are hurting. Phrases like ‘I’m fine’ are an easy way to skirt around the issue and many people just take that at face value. As someone living with depression, I will admit that I haven’t really thought about it that much – but it would make a world of difference in those moments!

  13. Wow- really important topic & so well written. You have given me a lot more knowledge around mental health & Ask Twice. Had no idea that only 19 percent of people answered “good” were really not. I have found that as you say, just listening and taking person seriously is key. Especially important with lockdowns & sickness & job losses. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge & experiences.

  14. Thank you so much for championing this campaign. It is so hugely important that we allow people the time to be honest. I know that asking more than once has really helped my partner talk honestly to me about his MH.

    I think it is an amazing campaign, thank you for shouting about it x

  15. This is so important. The answer that everything is fine is almost automatically given nowadays, it has lost its meaning a little. When people ask me how I’m doing I often say ‘Stable’ instead of ‘good’ because it’s an unexpected answer and it’s sort of neutral as well. But it really gets a conversation going.

  16. I’ve never heard of the Ask Twice Campaign before but it sounds like such a great initiative. I know I’m guilty of automatically saying “I’m fine” and could use a second ask to really open up. I will try to be more mindful of this moving forward when interacting with others

  17. I love the concept of asking twice! Often asking the first time does not get an honest answer but asking again shows that you really do care.

    I too am a person who often feels like I need to be the person who has all the answers and can fix anything. I cannot and am not that person and knowing that about myself is important to my state of mind. 🙂

  18. I think something as simple as asking “How are you feeling?” rather than “How are you?” is likely to bring someone to talk about their issues rather than the usual response. This is a great post with lots of fantastic advice & knowledge!

  19. This is such an important concept. So many times we hear or say “I’m fine.” And the little extra attention of a lifted brow, or “Really??” can completely turn the day around. Just that little bit of time and then feeling cared for.
    I don’t need my listener to fix it, but by caring they make me smile, and that instantly lifts a little of the stress.

  20. This is such a great idea. Everyone says they are fine when they don’t always mean it. Sometimes it’s just easier when you are in a rush, and sometimes you just don’t want to tell people what you are going through. But when someone you trust asks you twice, you’d be much more likely to open up and tell him or her if you are struggling.

      • This is fantastic! I have never heard of the ask twice campaign, but I can absolutely relate to it. My partner and I both have a bad habit of saying we are fine when we aren’t. And to spill the beans we both usually have to ask each other a few times. Probably not the best… But after 2-3 times of asking we usually open up. Thank you for sharing this!

  21. “Don’t try and fix it ” is the best advice. A typical response people get when sharing their feelings is a response of repair or comparison. Often the comparison is an attempt to repair. When someone tells you their problems listen and be supportive

  22. this was such an interesting and informative read! These are all great tips, but I think the best is not trying to fix it, but be there for them and listen. I think that so many start asking twice but sometimes with no intention of listening. Thank you for sharing!

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