Helping Others


Scroll through the list below to find answers to some frequently asked questions.

    Most of us know someone who is struggling now or has faced challenges in the past. As friends, family, classmates and co-workers, we're often the first people to notice troubling signs and symptoms of mental health problems in others. We are often impacted by their distress.

    There is growing evidence that your support plays an important role in creating a good outcome.

    Just like you might give first aid to an injured person before they get medical treatment, you can use your FeelingBetterNow Mental Heath First Aid Kit until the person you care about gets appropriate treatment or until the crisis is resolved.
    If you notice changes in their mood, behaviour, energy level, habits or personality, or you see troubling signs, consider whether a mental illness may be the cause. See Mental Health Basics for more information on this topic.

    If you're worried, don't ignore the symptoms or assume they'll go away.
    Give the person many opportunities to talk and express their feelings. Not everyone is ready to start the conversation and speak openly and honestly about their issues. It may be helpful to let them choose when to open up.

    Wait until you're feeling clear-headed and choose a time that's good for both of you to talk in a place where you both feel comfortable.

    Use "I" statements such as, "I have noticed," and "I felt concerned when...", rather than "You" statements like, "You seem depressed".

    Let them know you're concerned about them and that you're willing to help.

    Respect the way they interpret their symptoms. For example, if they say they're "just feeling a little scattered," don't try to convince them of something else.

    If they aren't comfortable talking to you, encourage them to discuss how they're feeling with a friend, family member or mental health professional.
    Treat the person with respect and dignity.

    Offer consistent emotional support and understanding. Give them hope that they can feel better.

    Encourage them to talk to you, and be a good listener.

    If they would like to receive more mental health information, pass along Mental Health Essentials and make sure the resources you suggest are accurate and appropriate to their situation.
    What is not helpful is telling them to "Snap out of it" or "Get over it" or "You should smile more" or "Get your act together".

    Don't belittle or dismiss them by saying things like: "You don't seem that bad to me" or "Other people have it a lot worse than you".

    Don't be hostile, sarcastic, blame or nag them. Avoid speaking in a patronizing tone of voice.

    Try not to become over-involved or overprotective.
    Ask if they want help managing their feelings.

    If they want help, discuss therapy and therapist options. (See Mental Health Essentials for more information.)

    If nothing else, encourage them to see their family physician as a starting point.
    Find out if there is any specific reason they say they don't want help. They may have fears or mistaken beliefs about treatments for mental health conditions. You may be able to help them overcome their concerns with some of the information in Mental Health Essentials.

    If they still don't want help after you've explored their reasons, let them know that if they change their mind they can always reach out to you.

    Respect their right to decide whether they want help or not, unless you believe they're at risk of harming themselves or others.
    In most cases suicide can be prevented. Most suicidal people do not want to die, they simply no longer want to live with the pain. Take suicidal thoughts and behaviours seriously.

    Openly talking about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save their life.

    Know the warning signs and risk factors for suicide, and learn about why a person may consider suicide.

    Helping a suicidal person is challenging, so it's important to remember two key actions:

    • If you think someone may be suicidal, ask them directly. Don't be nervous about saying something like, "Are you thinking about killing yourself?"

    • If they say, "Yes", ensure someone stays with them until they go to an Emergency room, see a psychologist, family physician or psychiatrist.