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How to Help a Friend

by NAMI Chicago Ambassador, Ashima Malhotra


Showing up for people is one of the greatest gifts you can give. It is the core of creating meaningful, lasting, and loving relationships. Calling yourself a friend will lack meaning until you show it in action - and that’s when it really counts.


When you notice your friend isn’t their regular self, or you notice they are more withdrawn, hidden, quiet, or that light is gone from their eyes. You notice a change in their behaviour, the way they dress, the way they look, the way they talk. Maybe the change is super subtle, like not wanting to hang out, or more extreme, like giving their possessions away. How do you help your friend?


Well you already took the first step. The first step is awareness and noticing the change. You can’t help if you didn’t know there was a problem to begin with. So watch and observe your friends - look out for each other - quite literally.


Now that you’ve identified there’s a problem, the next step would be to bring up your concern. You can do this in several ways - the most obvious way may seem is to talk to your friend face to face. And that’s a fantastic way to check on your friend, but there are other ways too. You can write your friend a letter or email, send them a text, call your friend, or video chat them.


Showing up for your friend isn’t always easy, but the steps are always simple. Showing up requires you to be honest, empathetic, kind, gentle, but most importantly, it requires you to LISTEN. You don’t have to tell them how to feel, or offer advice, more often than not, they just need someone to listen. So just listen and tell them you love them and ask them how you can help. Tell them they matter so much to you and how important they are in your life. Tell them you can’t see your life without them and the value they hold for you. Don’t undermine their thoughts and feelings. Listen with an open heart and an open mind. And most importantly, do this more than once, because most likely, your friend will forget how much you care for them if you don’t keep repeating it.


So keep showing up, over and over again, in different ways or the same. It doesn’t really matter as long as you show up for your friend. And if you find, your friend needs more help than you can offer, reach out to a trusted person in your life for support and advice. You can call the NAMI Chicago Helpline for additional resources to help you navigate on how to help your friend. But in the end, the best way to help your friend in need, is to be that same friend you were before things changed.


The NAMI Chicago Helpline (833-626-4244) is open from 9AM - 8PM Monday - Friday, and from 9AM - 5PM on Saturdays & Sundays (every day except holidays).


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