Everyone deserves to have good friends, ones that stick with them when the going gets tough.
If your friend is having a tough time, it can make it hard for them to keep their focus on school, and if you’re worrying about them, it’s probably distracting you from your learning too.
If you have a friend that is struggling at the moment, it’s okay to not know what to do, we’re here to help with that!
Mental health professionals study for years and have ongoing guidance and training to help them know what to do. You don’t need to be an expert or solve all of their problems. Being there and listening is a great first step, but if they need more help, you should guide them towards getting help from an expert.
Just know that if you’re reading this, you’re already a great friend to them because you care and want to see them get to a better place.
How to ask if they are ok
Starting a convo can feel a bit daunting, and if you’d prefer, you can reach out via text or through a private message on social media. If they respond, ask to catch up in person so that you can get a better sense of their feelings. If they don’t respond, you can ask them in person if they received your text, if they still don’t want to talk, and it seems like they need help, be sure to bring it up with someone else.
If they agree to catch up, first – pick a spot that is quiet and away from other people. It’s good to make them feel comfortable and confident that they can open up if they want to.
To start, try asking things like:
- “How’ve you been lately? What’s been happening?”
- “Are you all good? You haven’t seemed like yourself lately – is there anything you want to talk about?”
- “How are you doing, is there anything you wanted to chat about?”
If they don’t feel like talking, don’t push, just let them know that you’re there if they feel like talking later.
What to say if they aren’t ok
It’s hard to know what to say next – but here’s a pro tip: say less and listen more.
You can be a good listener by:
- Paying attention – turn off your phone and avoid any distractions
- Asking questions like ‘what do you think will help you feel better?’
- Checking to see if you’ve understood what they’ve said – repeat back what you have heard and ask ‘is that right?’
- Not being judgemental, even if you disagree with their negative thoughts, show that you can understand how they are feeling
- Ask why they feel that way, ‘what is going on in your life that makes you feel like this?’
Just remember, you don’t have to solve their problems. Don’t assume you know what’s best for them, just listen and let them know that you’re there for them. Sometimes, having someone to listen to them might be exactly what they need.
What to do next
If they are feeling more comfortable after your chat, let them know that they can always check in with you in the future to talk. Just remember to only offer what you can actually give, so if you can’t do daily catch ups, try something else that works.
Sometimes, a conversation may not go as easily or smoothly as we’d expect. If your friend is clearly in distress and talking about it is making things worse, you can end the conversation in a way that doesn’t leave them feeling hurt by suggesting they speak to someone else they feel comfortable with like a family member or a teacher.
The same goes if you feel like they are in distress or a risk to themselves and need more support. You can ask if they’ve tried talking to an adult, someone they trust, or seeing a mental health professional.
If they say that they don’t want your help – and it definitely seems like they need help – you need to let someone know, especially if you’re worried about their safety.
Take a look at these great videos by R U OK to see the impact of checking in with those around you: