How To Help Hurting Friends

hopeful help for those who are hurting

Most teens and college students we’ve interviewed have told us that if they’re suffering, they are most likely to tell a friend. That is good and bad, right? It’s great to have good friends we can share our pain with, but it also puts a big burden on that friend. If someone confides in you that they are depressed, anxious or suicidal, what do you do? You may be afraid of telling someone because you don’t want to loose this friendship. At the same time, it’s scary if a friend tells you that they are considering suicide. You may feel afraid that if you don’t tell an adult and they commit suicide, you are responsible. Here are some ideas about how you can help a hurting friend:

If a person comes to you and says they are depressed, anxious, sad or suffering from another painful thing:

  1. Listen and be compassionate.
  2. Tell them they aren’t alone and many people today are suffering from the same things (even if they look like they’ve got it all together.)
  3. Encourage them to reach out for help. Emphasize that you’ll always be there to listen, care and pray for them, but that you aren’t experienced in helping them heal from this level of pain.
  4. Offer to go with them to tell a safe adult.
  5.  Keep their pain confidential and don’t tell other friends or put on social media (that can push a person to become more hopeless.)
  6. Give them the shut up book  which has confidential resources they can use right now including: CTL and K-Love.

If a person tells you that they are suicidal (or have a plan to hurt themselves or someone else) these are some ideas about what to do:

  1. Tell them that you know the pain feels like it will go on forever, but there is hope.
  2. Say this: “I care about you. I don’t want to loose you. This problem is too big for me to help you with, so I need you to go with me and tell a safe adult right now. Who would you like to tell?”
  3. If they won’t go, say “I understand you want to keep this private, but I can’t leave you alone so I’ll need to tell a safe adult who can help.”
  4. Do NOT tell other friends or put on social media.
  5. Don’t try to figure out if they are really serious. Remember this isn’t a time to worry about loosing their friendship. This is about saving a life.
  6. Refer them to the shut up book or the website, where they can text a safe counselor right away (CTL or National Suicide Prevention Hotline, Lantern or K-Love)