mental health awareness

Supporting Friends

Your friend hasn’t been the same lately and you’re starting to worry. Maybe you haven’t seen them in a while and they’re not very responsive to outreach. Maybe you are noticing specific behaviors that you are concerned about. You want to help but you’re not sure how.

We have all been there. When we see someone we care about struggling, we can feel helpless. We want to figure out a way to help. We wish we could “fix it.” This is a totally normal desire. When we see someone that we care about in pain, we want to help take that pain away.

  1. Reach Out

    Let your friend know you’re thinking about them. Send a text or make a phone call and ask how they have been.

  2. Show Up

    If you can stop by in person do that. It can be hard to tell how someone is really doing based on text and phone conversations alone. If you can’t be there in person, try FaceTime or another form of communication that allows you to see their face and they see yours. Be sure you have time to dedicate to a real conversation. Schedule a visit or call if needed.

  3. Express that You Care

    Tell your friend that you care about them. When we are struggling we can forget this. If there are specific behaviors you’re worried about, name them and ask. For example, I’ve noticed you haven’t been leaving the house much lately. I care a lot about you and am worried. I want you to know that I’m here for you. Is there anything you want to talk about? They may or may not respond to that. Even if they don’t, it will plant a seed so that they know you are someone that they can talk to when they’re ready.

  4. Listen

    Listen more, talk less. Give them space to vocalize whatever they need to. It’s ok to sit in silence too.

  5. Ask How They Want to Be Supported

    Ask them how they want you to show your support. They may have an idea of what they need. Sometimes we want a friend to be a sounding board while we think out loud. Sometimes we may want advice - though if they don’t ask, don’t offer it. It may be well-meaning, but it can backfire. Sometimes we need someone to brainstorm with. Sometimes we need someone to distract us and to go do something fun with. Sometimes we need someone to sit with on the couch so that we know we aren’t alone.

  6. Give Hope

    Things get better. Emotions are fleeting. Situations can change. Let them know things won’t always be this way. Let them know change is possible. Let them know that you’ll be there along the way.

  7. Connect to Additional Supports

    You don’t need to be alone in supporting your friend. There are resources for both your friend and for you. These include professional support like therapists or doctors to websites with resources and stories of inspiration to hotlines that offer 24/7 support. Let your friend know about these options. Offer to help them research if they need additional ones. Offer to go with them to an appointment or to be there to talk to after they attend an appointment.

Those first tips are so so important. Arguably, I’d say the most important. When we are struggling it can help to know someone cares and that we aren’t alone. Take the pressure off yourself to do the “right thing” or say the “right thing”. The “right thing” is simply to Be There. Show Up for your friend and let them know you care.

This graphic and clip are from a favorite children’s story. It has been floating around social media. This does a brilliant job illustrating how to support a friend.

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It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn't heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore's stick house. Inside the house was Eeyore. "Hello Eeyore," said Pooh. "Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet," said Eeyore, in a Glum Sounding Voice. "We just thought we'd check in on you," said Piglet, "because we hadn't heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay." Eeyore was silent for a moment. "Am I okay?" he asked, eventually. "Well, I don't know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That's what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. Which is why I haven't bothered you. Because you wouldn't want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All, would you now." Pooh looked at Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore in his stick house.

Eeyore looked at them in surprise. "What are you doing?" "We're sitting here with you," said Pooh, "because we are your friends. And true friends don't care if someone is feeling Sad, or Alone, or Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are." "Oh," said Eeyore. "Oh." And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better.

Because Pooh and Piglet were There. 

No more; no less. (A.A.Milne, E.H.Shepard)

September is Suicide Prevention Month. Check in on your friends and loved ones. 

For 24/7 Support contact National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK, San Diego Access & Crisis Line 888-724-7240, and the Crisis Text Line - Text CONNECT to 741741.

If immediate safety is a concern, proceed to the nearest emergency room or call 911.

I See You. I Care.

I find it interesting that after high profile suicides my newsfeed is often filled with posts from well meaning individuals with blanket statements along the lines of “If you need to talk, I’m here.”  It makes sense.  We want people to know they aren’t alone and that we are there for them.  Unfortunately, putting that invitation out there may be futile when it comes to our friends who are suffering.  These people may not be able to reach out and ask for help.  One of the features of depression is isolation.  That person may not have the strength to reach out in response to that post.  They might not see that post. 

What makes someone think about suicide?  Imagine being physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted all the time. You feel alone.  You just want the pain to end.  It doesn’t feel like there is any other way to end it. You have lost hope.  

It isn’t uncommon to think about suicide.  It may start as a fleeting thought.  Then that thought gets louder and more frequent.  It gets so strong that the person starts to think of how to do it and maybe starts to prepare to act on those thoughts.  Then maybe something happens that makes them want to carry that plan through.  There are different risk levels of suicide ranging from passive thoughts to having a plan and intent.  It doesn’t have to be a linear progression either.  


Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US.

Every 12 minutes someone in the US takes their life.

On average there are 123 suicides per day.

For every completed suicide there are 25 attempts. 

- AFSP.ORG data from 2016 

Suicide is the most preventable cause of death.  If it is known that someone is struggling and they are able to connect with support.  

What can we do to stop this epidemic? 

We need to not be afraid to have uncomfortable conversations.  We need to make it ok to talk about mental health struggles and we need to make it ok to talk about suicide.  Talking about it can be a protective factor.  There can be relief in giving voice to the thoughts someone has been holding inside.  Then, they don’t feel alone with the dark thoughts.  If someone is struggling ask them -  How are you? How dark does it get? Are you thinking about suicide?

We need to show up for each other and show that we care.  If we know someone is struggling we need to be the ones to reach out to them.  Send a text just to say you’re thinking about them.  Make plans.  Invite them to talk about what they’re going through if they want.  Invite them to do something fun together to get their mind off things.  Ask them how you can help support them. Tell them you think they’re awesome and that you care about them.

We need to give people hope.  When someone is struggling they may not see an end to the darkness.  Let them know that it will get better.  It may not feel like it now, but it will get better.  The only way to know that for sure is to stay around to see that sunrise.  If you’ve struggled and came through to the other side (or know someone that has) share those stories of hope.  Sometimes someone may struggle to believe in that hope.  Let them know that’s ok if they aren’t there yet.  Let them know you’ll believe for the both of you until they find their hope.  Let them know you’ll be with them throughout their journey.

We need to connect people to support.  Everyone deserves support.  It may come in the form of therapy, support groups, online forums, spiritual guidance, and doctors, just to name a few.  I believe everyone deserves therapy.  Offer to go with them to their first appointment, if it will make them more comfortable.  If they don’t connect immediately to the person they meet with, let them know it may take time to build a relationship.  If it’s not a good fit, let them know it’s ok to try someone or something else.  It’s important for people to feel comfortable with their support.  Get support for yourself while you are supporting them.  Get support for yourself anyways.  Again, everyone deserves therapy.

What can you do when there is a high profile suicide instead of making a post inviting people to call you if they need anything?  Make a post about hope. Send a message to your loved ones just to say hi, to let them know that you are thinking of them, and to let them know you care.  Check in with loved ones that you know have been struggling to ask how they are doing, offer support, and let them know you care.  Engage in dialogue about mental health to help decrease the stigma.  Spread awareness about resources.  Connect to resources.  Go to therapy yourself. You deserve it! Let people know about your experiences and invite them to share about theirs.  

What if we made it a point to do all of these things regularly?  Why wait?  There are many stories about people who were struggling that describe how on a dark day a smile or kind word from a friend or even a stranger made a difference.  We don’t know what is going on in another person’s world.  What if we made it a point to smile and be kind to each person we interact with?

I see you. I care. 

According to the World Health Organization, 800,000 people die by suicide each year. That's one person every 40 seconds. World Suicide Prevention Day is Monday, September 10. Today, this week, and well into the future, we're asking you to fight with us. - TWLOHA

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, know that there is hope. Reach out for 24/7 Support. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK, San Diego Access & Crisis Line 888-724-7240, and the Crisis Text Line - Text CONNECT to 741741.

Survivors of Suicide Loss offers support to those who have lost loved ones to suicide.

You are not alone.