How to Help a Friend 2017-08-22T16:39:37+00:00

How can I help a friend that I suspect may be dealing with a mental health issue?

How would you react if you learned that your friend had diabetes?  More than likely you would offer support, encouragement and reassurance.    Your reaction should be no different when you have a friend that has mental illness.  Your friend needs your support.  In fact, statistics show that individuals with mental illness have the best rate of recovery when they have a strong support system of friends and family.  One of the best things that you can do to help your friend, is continue to be a good friend and do the things that friends do for each other.

Recovery is something that you have to work on every single day and it’s something that doesn’t get a day off.

-Demi Lavato

Additional suggestions for helping your friend:

1.  If you are concerned about your friend’s behavior, talk to him or her right away.  Don’t wait to see if your friend starts feeling better.  Mental health issues do not resolve themselves usually without medical intervention.

2.  Talk with your friend in comfortable surroundings.  Talk in a calm and non-judgmental manner.   Start off by telling your friend that you value their friendship and that you care about them but you have noticed that they have not been themselves recently.  Give them examples of behaviors or attitudes that have been concerning to you.  For example “I have noticed recently that you have been down.  You haven’t been hanging out with your friends as much and you are sleeping a lot.  Do you want to talk to me about it.”

3. Offer help.  Remind  your friend that mental illnesses are medical illnesses and nothing to be ashamed of.  Tell them that mental illnesses are treatable and that they can manage their symptoms and feel better.  Encourage your friend to seek professional help and offer to accompany them to their appointment.

4.  Listen to what your friend has to say.  Mental health concerns are often hard to explain and your friend may have difficulty telling you specifically what is going on.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.   Providing support and a listening ear can go a long way in helping your friend.

5.  Be prepared for negative reactions.  Your friend may initially deny that he or she has a problem and may even become angry.  Remain calm and reassure your friend that you care and that is why you are talking to them.  Sometimes people will respond to your concern by telling you that you need to mind your own business and ask you to leave them alone.    Don’t become defensive.  Just reassure them that you care.

6.  Remember that you cannot make someone get help.  You can make a huge difference by sharing  your concerns, providing emotional support and listening.

7.  NEVER KEEP TALK OF SUICIDE A SECRET EVEN IF YOUR FRIEND ASKS YOU TO. Take any talk of suicide very seriously and seek help immediately from a trusted adult or health professional.  Make sure your friend is not left alone and call 911.  The important thing is to get help right away from a responsible person.  If you are not sure if the situation represents immediate danger, err on the side of caution.    You are not betraying your friend if you seek help.  You are showing the greatest level of care by making sure that they are safe.

You may have heard that people that talk about suicide will not actually go through with it. That is not true.  People who talk about suicide may be very likely to attempt it.