During the Conversation

Trust your instinct – you probably know what your friend really needs

Being a good friend doesn’t require an instruction manual nor do you need to be a professional to know that they might need additional support. Don’t worry about finding the perfect words to say – there is no right or wrong, just be there and let them know they have your support.

Here are some tips to help make it easier to have a conversation about mental health.

Keep it casual. Relax: think of it as a chill chat, not a therapy session.

Listen up. Let them take the lead.

Avoid offering advice or trying to fix their problems.

Let them know it’s OK to feel the way they do.

Make yourself available. Be the friend they can rely on.

Ask open-ended questions. Help them to talk, not just say “yes” or “no”.

Let them open up at their own speed.

Don’t demand answers or force them to say anything they’re not ready to.

Encourage them to talk to an expert.

Tell them you won’t ever judge them.

Let them know that this won’t change how you feel about them.

Ask if they have seen a doctor.

Still feeling shy or unsure of what to say?

Learn how to navigate common tricky scenarios with confidence.

What if my friend asks me not to tell anyone?

It’s totally understandable if your friend asks you to keep a secret. But when dealing with mental health struggles, this isn’t always a good idea. To avoid breaking a promise, it’s easier to not make one in the first place. If your friend asks you to promise not to tell anyone, you can say something along the lines of “I understand why you want me to promise not to tell anyone, and I can do that unless there’s something that makes me really worried about you. I’m always here for you and can go with you to get help if it’s helpful.” This allows you to preserve the trust you have established with your friend while leaving the door open for you to seek help from a trusted adult or professional in the event that your friend later tells you that they are hurting themselves or getting worse.

What if my friend rejects my help?

Your friend might be scared to ask for help or open up. If you sense hesitation, you can start the conversation by talking about your own struggles, letting them know you are there for them no matter what, and that you are there to support them. A conversation doesn't always have to be how you extend a helping hand – you can reach out by inviting them to hang out, to come to an event, or activity. If you have a sense that they are needing more or might be more comfortable talking to someone else, you can offer to help make that connection.

What if my friend tells me they are being abused, experiencing trauma, or having suicidal thoughts?

If you learn your friend is being abused, a victim of trauma or having suicidal thoughts, they might need more help than you can provide. The best thing you can do as a friend is to assist with getting that additional help, even if it’s hard for them to accept. Head to our Get Help page for more information and resources.

What if my friend becomes angry with me or stops talking to me?

Being a confidant is part of friendship. However, sometimes being a good friend requires you to break that trust to get your friend long-term help. Even if your friend becomes angry with you for telling someone, their safety is more important. Consider that your friend may be angry for being “outed,” but they will likely appreciate that you cared enough to get them the help they needed. That said, it’s important to know that sometimes friendships suffer or even end when a friend seeks professional help for a struggling friend. Know that you’re doing the right thing and can take comfort that you played a role for them in starting their road to recovery.

Is just being there enough?

Often, just being there is enough for your friend, even if words fail. Listen to your friend, follow-up, and check-in regularly. Being supportive doesn’t have to happen all at once. It can, and usually is, the little moments strung together that truly make an impact. Even if the gesture is small like a text saying you’re thinking about them or how much you appreciate them, it matters. The smallest of gestures add up over time and signal that you care.