Worried About a Friend?

If you suspect that someone close to you is experiencing a mental health problem, the first thing you need to do is establish whether you are in a position to help that person. Ask yourself if you have the right knowledge to guide them. If you don’t, consult with a professional about what you can do.

Talking to a Friend

If you’ve noticed signs and symptoms suggesting that your friend is going through a mental health problem, there’s nothing wrong with talking to them about your concerns. Make sure you pick the right place and time for this sensitive conversation. Choose a quiet place where you can talk privately and without interruptions. Make sure you both have enough time to dedicate to each other.

Starting the conversion can be difficult. The key is to show your friend that you care and that they are not alone. Here are a couple of examples of conversation starters:

"I’ve been feeling concerned about you lately. How are you, really?"

"I wanted to check in with you because you don’t seem to be yourself lately"

"Recently I noticed some changes in you and wondered how you’re doing"

"You seem really stressed out lately. Do you want to chat over a coffee?"

If your friend starts opening up, make sure you keep the focus on the person, i.e. their emotions and what they are going through. Empathise and listen. Avoid making the conversation about you by, for example, going on about what you went through. Make sure you don’t say anything that trivialises what your friend is going through.

DON’T say things like:

  • “It’s all in your head”
  • “Look on the bright side”
  • ” We all go through times like this”
  • “Just snap out of it and pull yourself together”
  • “You have so much to live for, why are you feeling like this?”

If the person does not want to talk about the matter, don’t force them or try to make them feel they have to. Ask the person how you can help.

Helping Them Seek Help

It’s important that you encourage your friend to seek professional help by visiting their GP or reaching out to a social worker, counsellor or psychologist. Your role as a friend is to offer them emotional and practical support. You can, for example, offer to make the appointment together, go with them or look after the children while they go. If the person does not want professional help, it is important not to force them. Instead try to understand why and help by clearing any misconceptions they may have. If they still refuse, follow up with them and watch out for any decline in mental health.

When It Sounds Life Threatening

If you’re worried that your friend is in danger of harming themselves, for instance because of signs of suicidal thoughts or non-suicidal self-injury, do not leave the person alone and seek professional help immediately. Depending on how urgent the situation is, you may call the emergency number 112.