How Can I Help My Friend

What do I do if my friend is in crisis?

If your friend appears to be in immediate risk of harming themselves — if they have a plan put in place, have the means to do it, or if they have tried before — learn how you can get them immediate help.

If they refuse help, you may need to call 911 or your local emergency response team for them.

Remember: this is someone you care about, who may not be thinking clearly at this time. They may resist your efforts now, but later, when the crisis has passed, they will be alive to thank you.

If you have noticed your friend may need your help, but is not in immediate danger right now, read on to see what you can do.

What can I do to help my friend if they are not in crisis or immediate danger?

You can be a support person in many different ways:

  • Be there by spending time with or hanging out with your friend.
  • Give them time to just talk.
  • Listen without judging. Ask what is happening, how they are feeling & what they are doing.
  • Invite them to talk to other friends or trusted adults. Keeping someone safe is a task for many.
  • Ask them what they can do for themselves to relieve the sadness or pain (e.g. physical activity, arts & crafts, etc.). What works for them? Encourage them to do it, or do it with them.
  • Ask them if they are thinking of hurting themselves or killing themselves. Using the words will not cause them to think or do anything to harm themselves.
  • Do not swear to secrecy, even if they ask you to. It is better to have a living friend who is mad at you, than a dead friend with whom you can't have a relationship anymore.
  • Help them find resources or professional support. Help them make the call.
  • Go with them to an appointment.
  • Find a way to share some humour. Watch a funny movie together. Introduce them to your favourite funny show. Laughing 'til you cry is a sure-fire stress reliever.
  • Get informed: go online, take out books, join a support group, attend community info sessions, talk to others.
  • Look for more interactive options to help them discover help.

If none of this works, or it's not enough to keep your friend safe, reach out and get help for your friend:

  • Contact your local crisis service or check out resources that you can call.
  • Talk to your friend's friends, parents or brothers/sisters.
  • Talk to a guidance counsellor or a family doctor. Ask for help in helping your friend.
  • Find listings in the phone book under mental health for additional local resources.
How can I talk to my friend? Will it help?

Talking to your friend about what they’re feeling can make a huge difference in helping them to seek help. By starting a conversation, you can find a way to lessen your friend’s pain. Remember that talking with friends about suicide won’t make them kill themselves. People who talk about or try suicide do not want to die. They're looking to escape the pain, and cannot find another way.

My friend needs help, but they don't want it. What can I do?

It is difficult to help someone who doesn't want to help themselves, or who is in denial that there is anything wrong. This is a hard situation to be in.

Sometimes, unfortunately, there is nothing you can do.

If your friend or family member allows you to, you can support them by being there, listening, and letting them know you care and want to support them in finding help.

You can put a list of resources together for your friend. Even if they don't choose to use it right away, they may decide to during a time of need.

It's always best if a person gets help before they are in a crisis, however, many people wait until then to get help. You can take someone to the Emergency Room before or during a crisis, and that's how lots of people first start getting help. 

It's important to be a good friend, but you also have to make sure you take care of yourself. Look into your self care and read about ways to help your friend without becoming overwhelmed.

Helping a friend through a tough time can be hard.

Helping a friend through a tough time can be a great thing. Friends need each other during good and bad times. Being there for someone who needs you can be very rewarding. Simply note that it can also be hard and overwhelming. Taking care of yourself while helping a friend means that your own needs are also important. This can be easy to lose sight of when helping someone that requires a lot of your time and energy. It can become exhausting and tiring. Learn about things you can do for self care while helping a friend.

This is especially true if you’re trying to help someone who is not taking responsibility for their condition, or refusing to get professional help. Know that you are not responsible for your friend or family member’s condition. 

It takes many people to help someone going through a tough time. It’s not all up to you. Share the responsibility by reaching out to other friends, family members, teachers, guidance counsellors, family doctors or a counsellor/therapist. You can also reach out to other resources in the community so you can help your friend feel better.

“Know the limitations of what you, as a student, can do to help those around you. Be as supportive as you feel comfortable being (without endangering your own mental/emotional wellbeing), and encourage your friend to reach out for professional help. You need to recognize that they may not be willing/ready to do this, and take care of your own health, too.” -- Mira, University student

Some tools you can use to help your friend create a safety plan for when times get tough, include the Coping Kit and Alice All Jacked Up in our Interactives section.