What If Someone Talks To You About Their Mental Health?

  • Listen.  Let them finish their sentences and complete their thoughts without interrupting.  After they have finished you can respond.
  • Let them know if you understand.  If someone has just spilled their guts and you have gone through something similar—tell them.  It helps a lot for someone to know they are not alone.  Make sure you do not switch the topic of conversation to your struggles though; focus on their needs.
  • Avoid being judgmental.  Do not tell them they are being weird or crazy; it is not helpful at all.
  • Take them seriously.  Try not to respond with statements that minimize how they are feeling or what they are going through, such as, “You’re just having a bad week,” or “I’m sure it’s nothing.”
  • Make yourself available to talk again if needed.  While it can be a big relief for someone to share something they have been keeping secret, mental health struggles usually are not solved with one conversation.  Let the person who has spoken with you know that they can reach out to you again if they are having a tough time.  It is ok to let them know if there is a time of day or certain days of the week that you are not available.  For instance, “I am here for you if you need to talk, but my parents do not let me use the phone after 9 on school nights, so call before then.
  • Do not turn what you have been told into gossip.  If someone is talking to you about their mental health, it was probably tough for them to work up the nerve to say something in the first place and you should not share what they tell you with other students at school.  Let them share on their own terms.
  • If you do not understand, do some research and learn about what you’ve been told.  Make sure that your information is coming from reliable sources like government agencies and health organizations.
  • Tell an adult if you must.  It is important to have friends that trust you, but if a friend indicates they have thoughts or plans of hurting themselves or another person, have been hearing voices or seeing things that no one else can hear or see, or have any other signs and symptoms that should not be ignored then you need to tell an adult what is going on.  That does not make you a bad friend; it just means that the problem requires more help than you can give.
  • If someone you know is in crisis and needs help urgently, call or text 988, text MHA to 741741, go to your local emergency room, or call 911.