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How to Help a Friend

Here are Some Steps and Ideas to use to assist a friend:

  • It is important to realize that by telling another person about a friend's mental health problem, you are not betraying them, but rather are being their best friend by helping them in getting the support they need.
  • Do not ignore any possible sign of a mental problem because early treatment can provide for a better result.
  • Offer help and encourage your friend to find help. Offer to come with them to talk to someone about their mental health problems and find the right kind of care. 
  • Provide advice by giving options such as a health care professional you may know or support groups you have heard of. Even though you may want to help on your own, it is best to get help.
              Support groups in the area: Arbour Counseling Services:

Department of Mental Health in Boston:
DBSA-Boston for affective disorders (depression and bipolar disorder):
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Ilness):
*To find other support resources in your area, check this link.

  • Brace yourself for any possible type of reaction such as denial or anger. Do not take it personally and realize that it is the problem that is the reason for that reaction. Do not give up and do not be afraid to talk to a trusted adult such as a teacher, doctor, or the friend's parents.
  • Remember to be supportive and careful when sitting down and telling your friend about the behaviors that worry you. Definitely stay away from being critical or giving simple solutions. Be considerate and nonjudgmental in the way you talk to your friend.
  • Provide encouragement, patience, and understanding for your friend, knowing you cannot force them to get help but can provide them with support and specific places to get information.
  • If your friend talks of suicide, especially plans of suicide, do not keep that to yourself. It is a serious topic and despite what your friend asks you to do, you can be a good friend and seek assistance from a trusted adult or health care professional. See the home page for the number for the suicide hotline.
Check out this chart from Active Minds, which offers a quick summary of what to do:
Try this...

Avoid this...

Act sooner rather than later

Waiting to see if your friend feels better

Being direct and honest; talking openly

Acting shocked

Being positive; encouraging your friend

Being critical, skeptical or dismissive

Listen carefully

Agreeing to keep secrets

Show empathy, be supportive

Being patronizing or overpowering

Taking care of yourself


Seeking help from a professional; telling a trusted adult

Taking over your friend's life

Be available

Responding negatively

Be patient

Avoiding the concern or issue

Express concerns in specific terms

Judging your friend

Feel confident that your friend can get better

Giving up or getting discouraged

Be aware and non-judgmental

Getting defensive or angry

Asking what you can do to help

Telling your friend to 'snap out of it'

Trust your instincts

Ignoring your friend's concerns

Asking questions, be responsive

Suggesting you have all the answers

Educate yourself: Learn the warning signs

Being afraid of being wrong

Pay attention

Joking about the situation

Take talk of suicide very seriously

Asking "why"

Be natural, be yourself

Overextending yourself

Inviting your friend out for walks, activities and fun

Trying to diagnose your friend

Remind your friend there is hope

Managing the situation alone

*For information about signs of specific mental health problems, check out the pages in the left column of the home page.
    *Also take a look at this link for resources about multiple mental health issues
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Active Minds picture