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Teens: Supporting a Friend Who Is Struggling Emotionally

Overview

When a friend is going through a tough time, one of the best ways you can help them is by offering your support and showing you care. Here's how.

  • Be present for them.

    Make plans to hang out, or invite your friend to go do something. Even if your friend says no, making the offer shows them you care. And when you don't see each other in person, you can still be there for your friend by giving them a call or texting to check in. Even sharing a funny picture or meme can show support.

  • Validate their feelings.

    Even if you don't fully understand (or even agree with) your friend's feelings, you can still be supportive by letting your friend know that their feelings are valid. You can say things like "This is really hard. It's okay to feel angry." If you're worried about saying the right thing, you can always say "I'm so sorry you're going through this" or "I care about you, and I'm here for you."

  • Ask how you can help.

    It might be tempting to try to fix things or to start offering advice. But maybe your friend doesn't want or need you to solve the problem. Or maybe they're dealing with something that isn't a problem to be solved. So find out what they need from you or ask them what would help them. And remember, what they need could change from day to day. So ask more than once.

  • Listen without judgment (if they want to talk).

    To listen without judgment, don't jump to conclusions or try to convince your friend to feel differently. Instead, listen carefully and without interrupting. Try to really understand where your friend is coming from.

  • Keep the focus on your friend.

    Do you ever find yourself saying things like, "Oh, I know what you mean. One time I [insert story about yourself here]" or "That's just like what happened to me when [insert other story about yourself here]"? We compare things to our own experiences to try to show that we understand. But doing that takes the focus off of your friend and puts it on you. Give your friend's experience your full attention instead. Use sentences like "I hear what you are saying" or "Tell me more."

  • Remember that you don't have to do all the helping. Know your limits.

    You can be a supportive friend without being your friend's only support. If you think they need some extra help, encourage them to reach out to other people and appropriate professional help. You could suggest that they talk to a school counsellor or a trusted adult. If you feel worried that your friend might hurt themself, you should take steps to make sure they are safe, like asking for help, or sharing resources with them. It's OK for you to reach out to a crisis centre as a supportive friend. Remember that to help others, you have to take care of yourself.

    Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

    If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away.

    Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Credits

Adaptation Date: 2/8/2023

Adapted By: Alberta Health Services

Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services

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