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How To Approach a Friend in Trouble

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You know your friend is in trouble but you don't know what to do about it - here's help!
Difficulty: Hard
Time Required: As long as it takes!

Here's How:

  1. Know your facts; what is it that you think your friend is struggling with? Why do you think there is a problem?
  2. Make sure that others see some evidence of a problem. Even if they don't know your friend the way you do, other people will see changes. Get an outside point of view.
  3. Go over and over the possible scenarios in your head. Play out the worst case scenarios until you no longer fear them.
  4. Be prepared for opposition or even hostility from your friend.
  5. Be prepared to have to mention the problem more than once and/or to have to keep bringing it up over a period of time.
  6. Be prepared for your friend to reject you and turn away from you - no matter what don't do this back, be there even when it seems you aren't wanted.
  7. Don't force a blow up. Be calm and collected and always keep a caring tone of voice, even if your friend starts yelling, you must stay calm.
  8. Stay on topic. You or your friend may be tempetd to deflect from the issue with hurtful accusations or by digging up past "bad deeds" - don't even go down this path, keep the discussion on topic.
  9. As much as you possibly can say, "I am here for you, that is all I want you to know".
  10. Have a list of help resources made and ready. If your friend does want your help you should be prepared to give it right away.
  11. Encourage your friend to seek professional counselling and if necessary, medical help.
  12. If repeated attempts to talk to your friend fail and the issue is dire (eating disorder, abusive partner, drug or alcohol abuse, depression...) consider instigating an "intervention".
  13. An "intervention" is a group confrontation by loved ones and friends of the person in trouble and must include some family members. Interventions are draining for all involved, they shoudl be a last resort when all else fails.
  14. Do whatever it takes to "wake your friend up" and get them the help they need.

Tips:

  1. Don't be afraid to get help from other friends or even your troubled friends family. In most cases the more people involved, the better.
  2. Don't gossip about what you think may be going on - a true friend would not make things harder by throwing a tidbit into the gossip mill.
  3. Do not get discouraged if your friend is in denial and if they reject you rather than accept your help. This is normal and your best course of action is to always be available.
  4. Know that people in crisis often need to "hit rock bottom" before they will seek help. Be there to make that fall as painless as possible but don't stop it from happening.
  5. Don't become an "enabler", be careful not to let yourself be manipulated by a friend who only pretends to be accepting your help.
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