1. People & Relationships

How To Approach a Friend in Trouble

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Friends can struggle with all sorts of difficult issues: health troubles, eating disorders, drug problems, the loss of a parent or even depression. How should you approach a friend who seems troubled, especially if you're not exactly sure what's wrong?
Difficulty: Hard
Time Required: A lot: It depends what your friend needs and wants from you.

Here's How:

  1. Make sure you have evidence that your friend has a problem. Have you noticed a major change in their behavior? Have other people witnessed any changes in their behavior or given you clues about what the problem might be? Or, is it possible that your friend is just in a bad mood?
  2. If you have reason to believe your friend is in trouble, think of a genuine way to state your concern. A statement such as "I noticed you've been feeling kind of down lately and acting different from usual" could be a good starting point, just be sure you can back up your claim about a change in your friend's behavior. They're likely to ask you how they seem different.
  3. Prepare yourself for a bad reaction from your friend: It's quite possible that they will deny having a problem, get defensive or feel embarrassed because they've been trying to hide the problem in an effort to seem normal to others.
  4. If your friend is not willing to discuss the problem with you, tell them that you care about them and are willing to talk when they're ready.
  5. Approach them again about the problem after a few days or weeks. Remind them again that you are ready to talk when they are and that no problem is too big or scary for your friendship. Your friend may fear that you will leave them if the problem is a serious one: Emphasize that you are ready to stay with them and stick up for them.
  6. If your friend is willing to share details about the problem, listen calmly and carefully. As them how the problem began and how they are feeling about it. Ask them what you can do to help.
  7. If necessary, encourage your friend to talk to a counselor, a doctor or a parent. Offer to go with them for moral support.
  8. If your friend refuses to talk about the problem and it seems to be getting worse, you may need to ask a parent, teacher, counselor or someone your friend trusts very much for help.

Tips:

  1. Do not jump to conclusions about what your friend's problem may be.
  2. Avoid spreading gossip or starting rumors about what might be troubling your friend.
  3. Unless the situation gets more serious, try to get your friend to talk about the problem with you before getting others involved.
  4. However, if your friend threatens to hurt themself or someone else, you must call 911 or a suicide hotline, take them to a hospital, or at the very least tell an adult.
  5. Remember, being there for your friend to listen and support them is the absolute best thing you can do for them!
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