When we see someone who is sad, angry or anxious, it is our instinct to ask “what’s wrong?” However, someone dealing with a mental health problem may have certain thoughts or feelings that aren’t related to a specific situation or event. So when approaching a friend who is showing signs of a problem or dealing with emotional distress, it is important to be patient and supportive. You may not be able to understand how your friend is feeling and it may seem uncomfortable or awkward to discuss personal and emotional issues, but you can listen and let them know they aren’t alone.
Here are some key points you can communicate to a friend in need.
We all go through tough times. Sometimes people see asking for help as a sign of weakness so you can comfort your friend by giving them an example of a time you or someone you know struggled and needed support.
You can feel better. Your friend may feel hopeless or like no one can understand or help them, so it’s important to make them see that reaching out for support is the first step to feeling better. Mental health problems are treatable and manageable once identified, so sometimes we need a mental check-up in the same way we get other medical exams.
It’s OK to ask for help. Remember that our backgrounds, cultures and experiences can have a huge impact on how we view help-seeking. Some people may come from families or cultures where asking for help or seeing a mental health professional is shunned or thought of as weak. Thinking about why a friend might be reluctant get help can be important in deciding how to suggest they reach out for support.
If you are concerned that a friend is thinking about harming themselves or someone else, it is important that you don’t try and deal with that situation alone. You can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK for guidance or contact your school’s counseling center or a mental health professional in your community. If there is an immediate threat of harm, call 9-1-1 or your school’s emergency number.