Listen

Let them finish their sentences and complete thoughts without interrupting. After they have finished you can respond.

Let Them Know If You Understand

If someone has just spilled their guts and you’ve gone through something similar—tell them. It helps a lot for someone to know they aren’t alone. Make sure you don’t switch the topic of conversation to your struggles though; focus on their needs.

Avoid Being Judgmental

Don’t tell them they are being weird or crazy; it’s not helpful at all.

Take Them Seriously

Try not to respond with statements that minimize how they are feeling or what they are going through, such as, “You’re just having a bad week,” or “I’m sure it’s nothing.”

Make Yourself Available to Talk to Again if Needed

While it can be a big relief for someone to share something they have been keeping secret, mental health struggles usually aren’t solved with one conversation. Let the person who has spoken with you know that they can reach out to you again if they are having a tough time.

It’s ok to let them know if there is a time of day or certain days of the week that you aren’t available. For instance, “I’m here for you if you need to talk, but my parents don’t let me use the phone after 9 on school nights, so call before then.”

Don’t Turn What You’ve Been Told Into Gossip

If someone is talking to you about their mental health, it was probably tough for them to work up the nerve to say something in the first place and you shouldn’t share what they tell you with other students at school. Let them share on their own terms.

If You Don’t Understand, Do Some Research and Learn About What You’ve Been Told.

Make sure that your information is coming from reliable sources like government agencies and health organizations.

Tell an Adult if You Have To

It’s important to have friends that trust you, but if a friend indicates they have thoughts or plans of hurting themselves or another person, have been hearing voices or seeing things that no one else can hear or see, or have any other signs and symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored then you need to tell an adult what is going on. That doesn’t make you a bad friend; it just means that the problem requires more help than you can give. If someone you know is in crisis and needs help urgently, call Crisis Services in Marion or Polk County.