How to be an Ally

Written by Violaine Guéritault, Ph.D.

We all appreciate having someone help us through a difficult time, but sometimes other people may need us too. If you are concerned about the mental health of a friend or a relative you care about, know that there are ways you can help them deal with what they are going through:

  • Take the time to sit quietly with them away from all distractions.
  • Be kind and gentle in the way you talk to them. Make sure you stay calm, reassuring that support is available to them.
  • Listen very carefully to what they are willing to share with you. Most importantly stay nonjudgmental and make sure to focus on their needs at that moment.
  • Let them share as much or as little as they want to. Don’t pressure them into talking.
  • Don’t try to diagnose or second guess their feelings. Avoid saying things like– “you will get over it” or “you will be fine.”
  • Check-in with your friend and include them in your plans.
  • Keep your questions open-ended so they can express themselves freely (ie: How can I help? What can I do for you right now?).
  • Offer them help in seeking professional support and provide information on the ways to do this.
  • Be aware of your own limits. Set some healthy boundaries. Your role is not to save them, but to let them know they are not alone and to support them in taking the next steps.
  • Educate yourself: consider learning more about Teen Mental Health First Aid.
  • Do not leave them alone and reach out for immediate help (by calling a trusted adult or 911) if they are expressing thoughts of harming themselves.