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Fact Sheet

What to do when your friend is distressed


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When one of your friends is really upset, it can be a difficult time. You might feel confused or worried.

It’s important that you do what you can to help your friend, but if the situation makes you feel uncomfortable or distressed, you can encourage your friend to talk to someone else. Maybe you could suggest a counselor, doctor or psychologist. Check out the Get Help section for more information about how these professionals can help.

If your friend tells you something that makes you think that he or she is not safe, it’s important to take action and not keep it a secret. Talk to someone who can help your friend like a counselor, family member, or teacher. If you are concerned that your friend is suicidal, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) for information and support. Trained volunteers are available 27/7 to listen.

There are also other fact sheets on ReachOut that you can check out for more information on what to do if your friend is hurting himself or herself, or if your friend threatens suicide. Check out the fact sheet When your friend is talking about suicide or the fact sheet, Worried about a friend who is self-harming, if this is a concern.

Ways to help your friend

Distract your friend. Sometimes taking time out to do something you enjoy can help to take your mind off what is bothering you. The same is true for your friend. You and your friend could go shopping, play a game or watch a movie. You could also organize a game of baseball or soccer with a group of friends.

Be supportive. One of the best things you can do to help your friend is be supportive. Letting your friend know that you care, and listening to what he or she has to say can be two ways you can support your friend. Check out the Listening to a friend who needs you fact sheet for more information.

Help your friend work through these feelings. Working through feelings can sometimes make it easier to manage them. You might want to check out the Effective communication: getting the message across and the More tips for communicating effectively fact sheets for tips on communicating feelings.

Information for this fact sheet

The National Institute of Mental Health Guide has some useful information regarding what to do when a friend is feeling depressed.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Last reviewed: Mar 11, 2013

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