After the Conversation
How involved should I get? What if I start to feel overwhelmed?
Helping a friend who’s going through something difficult, especially when it involves serious or intense feelings, can be exhausting. It’s important to know your own limits. If you fall apart, you won’t be able to help your friend.
- Take care of yourself. Indulging in self-care doesn’t mean you’re a bad friend. If you feel like you need to take a step back, communicate that to your friend. Put yourself first and make sure you are okay in order to continue to help and support your friend.
- Keep your day-to-day consistent. Don’t let your friend’s mental health dramatically impact or change your routine or the way you interact with your friend. If you start acting differently around them, it could discourage them from seeking help and it will likely wear on you in ways that negatively affect your friendship.
- Be honest about being in over your head. Recognize when you went too far and set a boundary.
What shouldn’t I do when helping my friend?
Being a supportive friend can have many definitions but there are some things to avoid:
- Don’t take their behavior or comments personally.
- Don’t give ultimatums. For example, don’t say “If you don’t stop hurting yourself, I won’t be friends with you anymore.”
- Don’t tease or share private information in group settings or group chats. Respect your friend’s feelings.
- Don’t get frustrated if your friend doesn’t have the same perspective as you about the situation.
- Don’t shame, blame, or guilt your friend for his or her feelings or actions. Avoid accusing statements with “you”– instead use “I.” For example don’t say “You are being irresponsible and reckless,” rather say “I’m concerned that you might hurt yourself and that makes me worry since I care about you.”
- Don’t engage in activities that will likely make things worse such as using alcohol or other drugs to distract from negative feelings.
- Don’t give up. Keeping a positive attitude will help your friend stay strong and provide them strength to be healthy and get better.