What's Wrong with My Friend?

I think my friend needs help, but how can I know for sure?

If you are concerned about a friend, but don't know exactly what's wrong, it's a good idea to seek out more information.

Often, friends know each other in deeper or different ways from the way teachers, guidance counsellors or even parents know a young person. If your instincts are telling you that something might be up, it's important to follow up on that.

There's no harm in starting a conversation about your concerns. Be open and honest with your friend. If you think they are in need of urgent help, find out how to help them.

What are some signs that they need help?

Open up the conversation if you notice the following about your friend:

Appears to feel... sad, helpless, hopeless, worthless, guilty, ashamed, exhausted, angry, confused, irritable or withdrawn.

Behaves in unusual ways ...

  • isolating him/herself
  • having difficulty making decisions
  • acting aggressively
  • losing their temper at the smallest thing
  • giving away prized possessions
  • partying excessively
  • using substances more than usual
  • having unsafe sex or changes in libido
  • missing a lot of school or work
  • crying all the time
  • under- or overeating
  • under- or oversleeping

Seems out of touch with reality...

  • seeing or hearing things that aren't there
  • experiencing delusions or hallucinations
  • worried that other people are trying to harm them, even though there is no proof of this
  • learn more about psychosis

If you've noticed these types of changes, ask your friend if he/she is thinking about suicide. If the answer is yes, get immediate help for them.

Even if your friend isn't in crisis, they may still need help.

If there is no immediate danger, talk to your friend. Simply ask what's wrong. Talk about what you've been noticing or what you're concerned about and just listen to what your friend has to say. You may be worried about upsetting your friend, but he/she may be relieved that you asked and may appreciate being able to talk to someone.

Talk with your friend about your concerns. When you reach out to a friend, you're letting them know that you care, and giving them an open door to discuss their feelings. Remember that they may not be ready to talk at the exact same moment you are. That's okay. Let them know that the door is open for future conversation and that lots of support is available.

Remind your friend that mental health issues are treatable health conditions. The sooner a person gets help, the sooner they can start recovering.

As friends, you two have probably shared lots before, including stuff that was difficult and challenging in your lives. This is no different: it may be tough, but you can get through it with help.

It's common for people of all ages to be afraid of getting help from a professional. A process like that can be scary, especially if you're not sure what it involves. Visit I Need To Talk To Someone, or go through that section with your friend.

Don't go at it alone! Ask for help in helping your friend. Reaching out to others you trust will help your friend in the long run. Read How Can I Help My Friend to see what else you and others can do.

Stay calm. It can be scary for friends to tell you what’s wrong. To make them feel more comfortable remind them you are there to listen and you care about them. You don’t need to know how to fix their situation, or even what words to say. Being present and caring is the important part.

Last Updated: 
October 2012