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Supporting a Friend
It can be difficult to see a friend struggle with their mental health. These are tips on how to check in and be a support to your friend.
Talking to your friend about what they’re feeling can make a huge difference in encouraging them to seek help. By starting a conversation, you can also help your friend to feel less alone in their pain.
It takes many people to help someone going through a tough time. Share the responsibility by reaching out to other friends, family members or guidance counsellors/therapists. You can also reach out to resources in the community.
Remind your friend that mental health issues are treatable health conditions. The sooner a person gets help, the sooner they can start healing.
It's understandable to not know what to say or do when a loved one reaches out for help. Simply asking "What can we do to help you feel a bit better?" is a great first start.
Discuss coping strategies with your friend and create a safety plan together. Ask them what practical steps they want to take, and how they’d like support in achieving them. Check in on how they’re doing over time. For more info, check out An Abundance of Safety Plans.
Listen actively and validate your friend's feelings when they open up. If they tell you about their problems and say they're scared, try responding with, "That does sound scary. It makes so much sense why you'd feel this way given what's going on. I'm here to listen."
Another way to find out what a friend needs is by asking open-ended questions. This will create space for them to share how they're feeling and let you know what they need. Ask simple questions like “What has been on your mind as you’re going through this?”
It is important to stay patient when supporting a friend who isn't ready to accept help. Give them time, check-in regularly, inform them of places they can find support and, if it's healthy for you, let them know you're there for them!
If you are concerned about a friend's safety make sure to tell a trusted adult. Your friend may not like it, but their safety is of the utmost importance.
Sometimes just doing the typical things you do with friends, like watching a movie or going for a walk, can make a difference in someone's day and can be something familiar to look forward to.
Yesterday may have been #WorldSuicidePreventionDay, but it's important to talk about suicide, openly and without judgement, beyond just designated days so that your friends know they can talk to you about it any day of the year.
If your friend is feeling down, think about ways to show them that you care. One way to do this could be by making them a card!
Sometimes feedback is not always required when a friend talks about their struggles. Often, the most important thing is to be an active listener.
Consider making some homemade gifts for your friends! It doesn't have to be big but it can be a nice token of appreciation!
Sometimes a bit of distraction can make a big difference. Ask your struggling friend if they would want to do a craft activity for a day of creativity and fun!
Even if someone is an acquaintance, it can mean a lot to ask if they are feeling alright if they seem visibly under the weather! Spread kindness.
Sometimes, we are all busy with our own lives and may not have time to meet up with friends. Send them a text or call them to catch up and show you care!
If you have a long distance friendship, spontaneous calls may not be the best. Take the time to schedule a video call when the time zones don't clash!
Sometimes when we hang out with our friends, we tend to be glued to our phones. Be conscious of the amount of attention you are giving others and see if you can be more attentive in their presence.
Give your friend a compliment about something that they may not know you appreciate! Sometimes we don't really mention things we are grateful for about one another.
When you first start the conversation about your friend's mental health, they may deny anything is wrong. If your gut says otherwise, follow up with them. Express that you care and share why you're concerned.
If your friend shares about receiving a certain diagnosis, it can be helpful to learn more about it. They may be too overwhelmed to inform you about it, but they may have recommendations for books/links/etc. that are helpful. Seek out reputable and trauma-informed info!
Look into options for support groups that are meant for friends and loved ones of people struggling with mental illness. It can be helpful to hear from others who might be experiencing something similar.
Consider downloading the Be Safe App by mindyourmind for both you and your friend. It shows you resources in your area, can help you make a safe decision about reaching out when you're in crisis, and also allows you to create a safety plan.
Crisis and support lines aren't just for the individual who is in distress, you can also use them if you're worried about a friend or someone else in your life. We have a list of Where to Call to reach out.
Remember that talking about suicide won't cause a person to end their life. In fact, talking about it just might save them! Consider taking courses like safeTALK or ASIST to better prepare you for these conversations.
It's great to be a support for others, but make sure that you're taking care of yourself too! We have a page dedicated to exactly that: Self Care While Helping a Friend.
When you provide support to others and don't look after yourself enough, it's common to develop what some call "compassion fatigue". Know that this doesn't make you a bad person! It just means you may need to create a better balance for your own needs.
Recovery is a process, there may be relapses or setbacks. Do your best to channel patience during these times and try not to give up on your friend (as long as it's healthy for you).
You never know when you might have a friend who is going through a difficult time with their mental health, check out our Help Section to feel more prepared in helping them and yourself!
These tips were originally posted on our Twitter account under the hashtag #mymTips with a different topic each month. Follow us on Twitter to see a new tip each day, or visit the wellness section on our website next month to see the set posted in full.