Some first steps

Speak up! Start by sharing with your friend what you have noticed and why it concerns you. Have this conversation in a comfortable, familiar but private place where the two of you can talk without any interruptions.

Let them know that you care about them and you are worried about them.

Give specific reasons for your concern rather than asking, “How’s it going?” or “Is there anything wrong?” General questions are often easy to brush off. Think about the changes you’ve noticed in them. “I’ve noticed you seem _____ (e.g., really down lately) and I’m worried for you.”

Possible responses:

Your friend responds by saying there’s nothing wrong.

  • That’s okay – it may take more than one try before they are comfortable talking. By asking, they will know that you’ve noticed a difference and that you’re concerned. Try again in a few days.

Your friend tells you they don’t know what’s going on for them.

  • Suggest they look at some of the self-checks in the Mental Health & Substance Use section as a first step. Offer to sit with them if they want support, however, the results will not be very accurate if you answer for them. Or if they prefer to do it on their own, send them the link to this section.

Your friend isn’t comfortable talking with someone they know.

Your friend wants to talk with you.

  • Let your friend share as much or as little as they want to.
  • Be non-judgemental. Make it clear that you don’t blame them for their problems.
  • Try not to make assumptions about what’s wrong. Don’t try to diagnose or second guess their thoughts or feelings. The most helpful thing you can do is be there, listen and offer support.
  • Ask questions to help you and your friend better understand what they are going through. Assure them they don’t have to answer any questions that make them feel uncomfortable.

Keep in mind….it can be really tough to talk about personal stuff. Your friend may not understand the feelings and thoughts they’re experiencing. They may feel like it’s their fault or embarrassed that this is happening to them. They might be frustrated that they can’t just get over it by themselves or are scared of being seen as different from everyone else.

A few more tips on how to support your friend:

  • Keep your questions open-ended. Say “Can you describe to me how you are feeling?” rather than “Are you feeling sad?” Give your friend time to answer.
  • Sometimes, just being able to vent about one’s troubles is enough to feel better.
  • Ask “How can I help or support you?” rather than jumping in with your own solutions.
  • You may hear something that needs more than a friend’s support. Ask your friend if they have thought about going for help. Suggest going to the Get Support section on or that they talk with a trusted adult.
  • Don’t promise to keep secrets, especially if your friend is talking about hurting themselves.
  • Be prepared to hear information that may be upsetting. This can be hard to take, so remember to take care of yourself. Talk to an adult you trust or you can always use the phone and online chat options to connect with a trained professional or volunteer.

If you are very worried about a friend, you should let an adult know. This could be one of your parents, a school counsellor or another trusted adult. They can help you to figure out what resources are available and what the next steps might be. 

What Next?

Want to explore and learn more?