Make An Impact Within Your Friendships
Friendships are as unique as the people in them and fill a need that no other relationship can. We spend a lot of time with our friends. They see and understand us in a way that can make them more aware when something’s off or when we need help and support.
Friendship is a key piece of life and the connection we all need. You don’t need a lot of friends; a few good friendships can have a positive/lasting impact on your overall wellbeing. Feeling seen, understood, and like you belong improves your mental health. Anything that improves wellbeing and mental health is a part of suicide prevention.
You can help prevent suicide as a friend.
Create Friendships Supportive of Mental Health
All friendships can be supportive of mental health on some level. We have different friends for different reasons. Some you go deep with, and with some friends it's more casual. Special friendships develop with time and care. You have the power to set the tone in your friendships in a way that works for both of you.
Be True To You
Close friendships begin with you. Get to know and appreciate who you are - interests, strengths, values, and challenges. Share your authentic self through the ups and downs.
Build a Strong Foundation
Important elements of friendship include:
- Clear expectations
- Active listening
- Conflict resolution
Be Willing To Go There
When you’re concerned about a friend, speak up and let them know. Share your concerns and be willing to talk about mental health – theirs and yours. When you do, check-in on how you can support them, ask what they need in that moment, and offer resources that can help get them through the difficult times.
Have Fun Together
Whether one-on-one or in a group, friendship should be fun! You don't need to spend a lot of money to make memories, enjoy each other's company, or just laugh. Sharing experiences helps to strengthen your bond and can give everyone a fresh perspective.
67% of young adults tell a friend they are struggling before telling anyone else.
Suicide Signs and Risk Factors to Watch For
- Self-isolation (withdrawing from family, friends, and regular activities)
- Increase in alcohol or drug use
- A change in online presence (websites they’re going to, what they’re posting, what they’re reading and talking about, how frequently they’re posting)
- Sudden, significant drop in grades or performance at work
- Dramatic change in appearance and behavior
- Language, research, books you’re reading, projects around themes of helplessness, hopelessness, death, being a burden
- Giving away important possessions
- Abrupt or dramatic change in mood
- Talking about suicide
Any direct reference to mental health struggles. Here’s what you might hear:
- I just want to die.
- I just can't do this anymore.
- I'm such a burden.
- Life isn't worth anything.
- I won't be around to deal with that.
- If he/she breaks up with me, I can't/won't go on.
- There is nothing I can do to make it better.
- My family would be better off without me.
- I feel there is no way out.
- It's hopeless/pointless/useless.
- I have no reason to live.
It can be hard for people to come out and talk about mental health struggles or thoughts of suicide. Here’s what you might hear instead:
- I’m having a hard time
- I have a lot on my plate right now
- I can't stand the pressure anymore.
- What's the point/it’s pointless
- I’m feeling really overwhelmed
- I wish I could just get a break from it all/just go to sleep forever/run away
- “I should just kill myself,” said in a joking tone
Any of these expressions/phrases need to be followed up on. Here's how:
How To CARE
Use these steps any time you want to check in with a friend or when you notice something concerning.
It’s always a good idea to check in. Do this when you’re first concerned about a friend or when a friend comes to you about a challenge they’re facing.
Setting: one-on-one, semi-private, in a neutral space (out for a walk, eating a meal together, etc.)
Tone: casual, concerned, open, curious
Phrases that can help:
- “I wanted to check in. How are you doing?”
- “I’ve noticed...” Give a concrete example like, “You’re posting some dark things on social media, I haven’t seen you in a really long time, you haven’t been going to your classes.”
- “I’m concerned about...” refer to the specific statement, behavior
- Give them the option to talk “Is this something you want to talk about?”
- If not, gently let them know that there are lots of kinds of mental support if they want it, including CAPS.
- Stay calm, curious, and compassionate
- Listen with empathy without trying to fix the problem
- Ask how, when, what questions (how did that happen, when did you start feeling that way, what’s important about this to you) or simply say, “Tell me more.”
- Paraphrase what they’re saying
- Trying to fix the situation or jump in with a solution
- Platitudes, “at least” “you have so much to live for” “everything will be okay”
- Judgment of what they’re saying and their experience
- A big reaction
- Why questions, especially those that suggest the feelings aren’t valid like “Why is this bothering you?” or “Why are you so sensitive about that?”
When someone shares something difficult or vulnerable, acknowledge that. Tell them something like, “Thank you so much for sharing this with me, I know that was probably hard to do.” This can make a big difference in how seen, heard, and validated someone feels.
If the thought enters your mind at all that they may be suicidal, having suicidal thoughts, or at risk for suicide, ask them: “Are you thinking about suicide?”
This is probably the part of the conversation that will be most uncomfortable to you. Don’t let that stop you. Ask anyway because this is also one of the most important parts of this conversation.
Counselor tip: Practice saying, “Are you thinking about suicide?” out loud. Choose a friend or another family member to roleplay with and take turns asking the question.
Ask how you can support them in this moment. Sometimes we think we know what’s best for someone, but most of the time we don’t. Try questions like:
- Do you want me to listen?
- Are you looking for feedback or solutions?
- Can I give you a hug? or Would you like a hug?
Whatever someone’s going through, you don’t have to help them through it alone. Encourage them to get support, whether that’s from the family, friends, a mental health professional, etc.
Counselor tip: Offer to go with them, ask who is a supportive person in their life that could go with them, schedule a time to follow up and check in on how it went