Offering Help to a Friend

Please note: this post was written by a student who wished to remain anonymous

Before I get into the specifics about a time I reached out to a friend in need, I wanted to share a time that I did nothing.  In grade 8, one of my peers committed suicide. I was absolutely devastated, how could anyone so young lose the will to live? It was so hard to process and I felt sick thinking that if just one person had reached out to her she may have had a very different outcome!

Many people feel very alone in their struggle and letting them know you are there to help can make all the difference. It can be a very nerve-racking experience to approach a friend that you are concerned about, which I completely understand. I cared a lot about this person but I didn’t know how they would react to me telling them that I was concerned about their mental health.

I was stuck and had no idea how to start the conversation with my friend, so I sought help from the UOIT Mental Health Services on campus. The one piece of advice that I internalized from my conversation with one of the Mental Health Counselors was this: there is absolutely nothing you can do to make your friends situation worse in any way, but you have the opportunity to make it so much better for them! I kept this message in the back of my mind when I approached my friend. I tried not to plan out exactly what I was going to say and just let the conversation flow freely. I started by saying that I was concerned about him and I mentioned some of the things I had noticed about his behaviour (without trying to diagnose). I let him know that I was here to help if he needed to confide in me. I also made him aware of the counseling services he had access to through the university.

Honestly the conversation didn’t really go how I thought it would.  He got mad and kept trying to laugh off the situation and make me seem silly for even bringing it up.  I was upset by his strong reaction towards my attempt to help. Although, I knew that if he was so reactive to what I was saying it was probably because he may have noticed some of the behaviour changes in himself. I knew that what I had to say was important and that I was going to take the necessary means of helping out my friend. I decided that I was also going to talk to a few of his close friends and parents just so they would keep an eye out for him. It took a long time to get him to admit that he needed help but I just acted as a support along the way. Eventually, I convinced him to see a counselor which was a huge accomplishment!

I think it is important to note that it is common for the person you are trying to help to not be receptive to your assistance in the beginning. However, if you are truly concerned about this persons health and are willing to put a strain on your relationship to help them, then you certainly need to act on those feelings! In the end my friend was truly grateful that I went out of my way to help him and I think knowing someone cared enough to advocate for his well-being made a huge impact.

For a lot of people, males especially, it can be hard to seek help from a counselor because they somehow view it as being a sign of weakness which is not the case! It takes a very strong person to admit you are struggling and to seek help. The one piece of advice I will leave you with is not to underestimate the impact you can have on a person’s life.  Don’t belittle your ability to help a friend in need simply because you are not a qualified counselor, just listen to them and be there for them when they need you. I hope my story has encouraged you to reach out to a friend in need either now or in the future.


9 thoughts on “Offering Help to a Friend

  1. Respect.
    My best friend went behind my back (back then it felt like that) and talked to my parents and my other friends about my self-destructive ways. She knew me better than anyone else and I am still around because of her. We are still best friends and I’m alive and doing well. I want to pay it forward and I WILL help somebody in need, even if they get upset.


  2. I feel that your post relates to my current problem. I’m in a similar situation to yours. I’m also concerned about my friend.
    I noticed that me just talking to her helps. It has been difficult for me to know what to say though as most of the times she just shrugs it off or becomes defensive.
    How did you schedule your session with a counsellor? Do you have to share your friend’s name? Do I need to become a patient there first? How much details do I need to provide them? I want to be sure that my friend’s name is safe as I don’t have her permission to share it. What do you mean by “there is absolutely nothing you can do to make your friends situation worse in any way, but you have the opportunity to make it so much better for them!”. When you say that you convinced your friend to see a counsellor, did you have to go there with him?

    Like you, I want to be a good friend. Like you I’m ready to step beyond the boundaries of my friendship with her. I don’t want her to resent me or risk our friendship.


  3. Martha, I went into the U5 building and spoke with the receptionist to set up a meeting time with one of the counselors. They did not make me become a patient as I was just consulting with them about a friend. They do not make you share your friends name and actually encourage you not to as it is confidential and your friend may become a patient later on. For my session I just made up a fake name so I could talk about my friend. It is up to you how much detail you would like to provide to them, but I felt very comfortable sharing and getting their opinion on what I should do. What I meant by there is absolutely nothing you can do to make your friends situation worse in any way, is that your actions to reach out to your friend, despite their reaction, will do no harm to them . I just know for me I was concerned that confronting my friend would somehow make his situation worse in some way. I’m not sure I am explaining myself well, but the general idea is that if you approach your friend from a place of concern and support then it could only have a positive effect on their current state. Unfortunately for me the friend that I was trying to help was in a different town so I was unable to go with him to a counselor. However, if your friend feels more comfortable going to a counselor the first few times with and you are willing to do that for them it can certainly be arranged. I can’t promise you that your friend will be receptive to your message and it could possible put a strain on your relationship for awhile, but in the end I’m sure she will be happy that someone cared enough to reach out to her.



  4. I’m happy that there are so many wonderful people that are willing to help out a friend in need. It is also great to hear that some of you have personally benefitted from a supportive friend too!


  5. Laura, it is great that we have people like you around because you did what friendship is all about: being responsible and not being afraid when it matters. I had a similar situation and didn’t do anything. Fortunately our mutual frien stepped up and did what I should’ve done; made calls, talked to oithers, called parents. I feel guilty that I had no guts to do it but I think I will if needed again in the future.


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