Some first steps

Speak up! Start by telling your friend what you have noticed and why it concerns you. Choose a comfortable, familiar but private place where the two of you can talk and not be interrupted.

Let your friend 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?” These kinds of questions are easy to brush off. Think about the changes you’ve noticed in them. “I’ve noticed you seem _____ (really down lately, unhappy, on edge) and I’m worried for you.”

Possible responses:

Your friend may respond by saying there’s nothing wrong.

That’s okay – it may take more than one try before they are comfortable talking. But hey will now 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, but don’t answer for them as the results will not be very accurate. 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.

Let them know that on they can find out about phone and online chat resources and they won’t have to say who they are.


Your friend wants to talk with you.

  • Let your friend share as much or as little as they want to.
  • Make it clear that you don’t blame them for their problems. Be non-judgmental.
  • Try not to assume you know what’s wrong. Don’t try to diagnose or second guess their thoughts or feelings. Just be there, listen and offer support.
  • Ask questions to help you both have a better understanding about what they are going through. Assure your friend they don’t have to answer any questions that make them feel uncomfortable.

Keep in mind….it can be really hard 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 or 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 tell 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 support than you can give. 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 themself.
  • 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?