Supporting a Friend in Trouble

Your friend just told you they have a major problem. Maybe they are into drugs and alcohol. Maybe they have an eating disorder. Maybe they are thinking about suicide. Maybe it’s something else just as serious. What do you do? This article will show you ways to support your friends and help them in times of crisis.

Being a friend means trying to support your friend through the great times as well as the stressful times. Teenagers sometimes find it hard to admit they have a problem, especially if it is serious, so if they do not confide in you, and you still suspect something is seriously wrong, be watchful for warning signs.

The warning signs of a serious problem include:

  • hard time eating or sleeping, always irritable,
  • using drugs or alcohol, which is a problem in itself, but can be a sign of other problems,
  • withdrawing from teen social situations and friends,
  • sudden crying or anger,
  • preoccupied with their weight, never seeming to gain any weight, or there is a sudden upswing in their weight.
  • preoccupied all the time about something troubling,
  • a crazy behavior change, suddenly a shy teen becomes loud, or an outspoken teen becomes reserved.

Going along with these warning signs are the danger signs of suicidal thoughts. These include:

  • talking as if they have no hope or no future,
  • acting like nobody cares and that they no longer care about themselves,
  • preparing to commit suicide, such as making a will, giving away things, saying good-bye,
  • threatening to kill themselves.

So what do you do? Here are some tips for supporting your friend.

  • Let them know you care. Show them that you want to help.
  • Tell them you are worried about them. If they are drinking or taking drugs, explain how they act and how it hurts them and you.
  • Be ready for anger or denial, you’re friend may be mad at you for bringing it up, but just continue to show your care.
  • Don’t put them or their problem down, take them seriously.
  • Encourage them to take their problem to someone else.
  • Speak in a soft, caring tone. Show them you are trying to be understanding.
  • Stay in touch. Explain that you are ready to communicate whenever needed.

And above all, find out where your friend can get help. You should show your friend that you would be willing to go with them if necessary. Look into telling counselors, religious professionals, other family members and friends, doctors, and teachers and administrators as they will likely be able to help your friend get through their problem.

Teenage life can be full of stressful situations, some little, some big. Be ready to be a supporting friend and you hopefully will feel the joy that comes from getting the help that is needed.

Supporting a Friend in Trouble Sources:

  1. Center for Health Communication, Harvard School of Public Health, A Guide for Teens, “Does your friend have an alcohol or other drug problem? What can you do to help?” [online].
  2. Joyce Walker, Youth Development, Teens in Distress, University of Minnesota Extension Service, “Helping Friends in Trouble: Stress, Depression, and Suicide,” [online].
  3., Friend, “I Think My Friend May Have an Eating Disorder. What Should I Do?” [online].