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.