How to tell if a friend needs support

A key part to mental health is connection with others, and you have the power and ability to help the people you care about in many different ways. You don’t need to be a therapist or counselor to have a big, positive impact on friends and family who need support.

One of the first and most important things to know is how to tell if a friend or someone close to you may be struggling. Here are some common signs to watch out for:

  1. Distancing – Your friend might feel a bit more distant and might not be reaching out or responding like they usually do.  
  2. Emotional changes – Your friend might appear more moody, upset or easily irritated by things that usually wouldn’t bother them. 
  3. Personality Changes – Your friend might have suddenly changed how they appear to the world in terms of their looks, how outgoing they are, or what kinds of activities they get involved with. 
  4. Physical Changes – Your friend might appear physically different – losing or gaining weight or other changes that might mean they aren’t looking after themselves like they usually do. 

Your friend or family member might feel confused, feel low or alone and that nobody is there for them.  Just knowing you are there wanting to help can make a big difference. This can help them feel less isolated, more connected to you and others they care about, and more hopeful of finding help. 

Your Own Learning:

If you are having a ‘lightbulb moment’, that’s great!  First pause and appreciate that.  You now know you have the power to help AND know there may be a part to play in getting your loved one the support they need. You might have strong feelings about realizing your friend or family member is struggling. Or that you didn’t spot it sooner. That’s okay. 

Be kind and gentle with yourself. You are learning. The fact you are near the end of this article means you are a caring person and wanting to learn how to help. That’s a solid first step. It’s the best first step you can take.You are learning new skills that can help you spot these things in others more quickly.

If you do spot something and are worried about your loved one, there is a free, professional resources available to help you know what to do next:

9-8-8 Sucide & Crisis Lifeline 

The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States.

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