How To Talk to A Friend Going Through a Mental Health Crisis

How To Talk to A Friend Going Through a Mental Health Crisis

Opening up about mental health issues can be a scary thing; it requires showing vulnerability to other people who might react unexpectedly. However, it becomes easier for someone to be honest about their issues when a friend or family member reaches out and checks in on them. Social support is correlated to better mental health.

When a friend is feeling anxious or depressed, this extra support could make a big difference, but the tricky thing is how to go about doing it.

If you’re willing to begin the conversation about mental health struggles, Nina Henry, JCFS Mental Health Educator offers some tips that might help you to better understand and support your loved one.

Here is a 3-step process that she uses as a basic framework for how to talk to people going through a crisis. Keep in mind you do not want to make it about yourself, minimize their issues, or be overly intrusive.

Step 1 is Subjective: Say things that show they matter to you, such as

  • I care about you.
  • I respect and admire you.
  • You’re important to me.

Step 2 is Objective: Say things you’ve noticed or observed.

  • Hey, I noticed we haven’t seen each other in a while.
  • Are you still going to [shared activity]? Haven’t seen you there lately.
  • You look like you have something on your mind.

Step 3 is Proactive: Ask them what you can do to help and reinforce that you care about them.

“They may say no thank you. If that’s the case, accept it and remind them you haven’t stopped caring, and that you are there if they need you,” says Nina. “It also may be a good idea to offer them some other options like professional help later. The number one goal is to make them feel safe and in a judgment-free zone.”

If you think someone close to you is struggling with their mental health, JCFS Chicago’s clinicians can offer guidance to help children, teens, individuals, and families find solutions to the challenges they face at each stage in their lives. For more information, visit our website or call 855.275.5237.

If you believe that your friend or loved one is suffering from poor mental health, contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Call or text 988 or chat in case of an emergency. 988 serves as a universal entry point so that no matter where you live in the United States, you can reach a trained crisis counselor who can help.