How friends can help troubled teens
November 30, 2004
From the CMHA (Fort Frances Branch)

For most teens going through high school, friends are just as important as grades. Friends and peers are an especially important source of support when you’re going through tough times.

At the same time, you may find that you lose touch with some of your friends when you’re dealing with mental health problems.

This can happen for several reasons—either because you’ve isolated yourself, or because they are scared away by the stigma or discomfort that people sometimes have about mental health problems and mental illness.

While friends can be helpful, and a good source of support, talking with them doesn’t replace talking with your parents or other adults, like a doctor, teacher, or guidance counsellor, who can help you get the professional help you need.

“My friends were there when everything got to be too much and they even visited me in the hospital,” said one student. “My friends help me calm down and they help me talk things out.”

“My friend talked to me, came with me to the guidance counsellor, came to visit me in the hospital, and brought me stuff to make me feel better,” added another.

How can you help a friend?
If you are worried about a friend, it’s important to be supportive and to say things like “I am very concerned about you. You are saying things that I am really worried about and we need to tell someone.”

You need to let a trusted adult—like a parent, teacher, or counsellor—know what’s going on.

Don’t promise to keep secrets, especially if your friend is talking about suicide. As a friend, you must tell an adult so they can get help right away.

Offer to accompany your friend to talk with an adult they can trust.

Let your friend know that you care, and that you haven’t forgotten about them—even if they repeatedly try to put you off. Stay in touch and reach out to them.

Stand by your friend during their recovery. Reinforce your positive feelings about them and your confidence in their continued recovery.

Find ways of having fun together that don’t involve using drugs or alcohol.

Offer to go to support groups or important meetings (such as with teachers, counsellors, or doctors) with your friend, and to be another set of eyes and ears in meetings.