Helping Someone in Distress
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​​​​​Practical tips for supporting someone with a mental health concern

Research has shown that 1 in 5 young persons may be experience a mental health concern. It could be someone close to you. What can you do to help?

Have you noticed unusual changes in their personality or behaviour? For example, they may experience:​

  • Troubles sleeping
  • Change in eating patterns
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of interest in activities, even those he/she used to enjoy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Excessive alcohol or drug use
  • Self-harm or self-injury
  • Self-loathing​

It can be hard figuring out what to say and how to start the conversation. Choose a time when you are both free to talk, and a place where you both feel comfortable. Start with observations to explain why you are concerned. For example, you could say:

“I noticed you haven’t been eating lunch with us.”
“I’m worried because you have been keeping quiet lately.”

Do not be worried about over-reacting. If you are concerned about someone you know, that is enough reason to voice it out.

After you’ve started the conversation, give your friend enough time and space to talk. Listen as much as you can, and help your friend by sitting in a relaxed position and maintaining eye contact. Ask open-ended questions which cannot be answered with simply “Yes” or “No”. For example, you could ask, “”How can I be helpful to you?”

Avoid giving advice or imposing your beliefs on them!

If your friend is not ready to talk, do not take it personally. Offer to meet them another time, or let them know they can always get in touch with you when they are ready. Even though they don’t share much, just spending time together assures them that you care.

Remember, it takes time and courage for your friend to seek or accept help.

After understanding what your friend is experiencing, gently suggest the possibility of seeing a professional. You could share what you know about professional helping services and suggest your friend to think about it. For example, you could ask, “Have you heard of the personalized mental health check offered by CHAT?”

You could also offer to accompany your friend.

No matter how concerned you are for your friend, remember to take care of yourself. Share the responsibility of caring for your friend and talk to someone you trust, for example, a family member or friend. Remember to take time to relax and enjoy things you like too.

Remember, you are not responsible for your friend’s actions or behaviour. Even though you can offer support, it is not your fault if they are unwilling to help themselves.