Help a Friend

Positive support from friends and family can greatly diminish the negative affects of someone going through a hard time. You have made an important step in recognizing that someone you know needs help. This site will help you to recognize the problem they may be facing, give you tools on how to start the conversation to effectively respond to their crisis and finally, to refer them to local and regional supports.

We understand that being a support is daunting and can be stressful at times. Check out some tips on how to provide self care as you care for others.

Domestic Violence

Help a Friend or Family Member

Are you concerned that someone you care about is experiencing abuse? Maybe you’ve noticed some warning signs, including:

  • Their partner puts them down in front of other people
  • They are constantly worried about making their partner angry
  • They make excuses for their partner’s behavior
  • Their partner is extremely jealous or possessive
  • They have unexplained marks or injuries
  • They’ve stopped spending time with friends and family
  • They are depressed or anxious, or you notice changes in their personality

If someone you love is being abused, it can be so difficult to know what to do. Your instinct may be to “save” them from the relationship, but it’s not that easy. After all, there are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, and leaving can be a very dangerous time for a victim.

Abuse is about power and control, so one of the most important ways you can help a person in an abusive relationship is to consider how you might empower them to make their own decisions.

Acknowledge that they are in a very difficult and scary situation, Be Supportive and Listen.

Let them know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure them that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there. It may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse. Let them know that you are available to help whenever they may need it. What they need most is someone who will believe and listen.

Be Non-Judgmental.

Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize their decisions or try to guilt them. They will need your support even more during those times.

If they end the relationship, continue to be supportive of them.

Even though the relationship was abusive, your friend or family member may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. They will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support at that time.

Encourage them to participate in activities outside of the relationship with Friends and Family.

Support is critical and the more they feel supported by people who care for them, the easier it will be for them to take the steps necessary to get and stay safe away from their abusive partner. Remember that you can call the hotline to find local support groups and information on staying safe.

Help them develop a Safety Plan.

Check out our information on creating a safety plan for wherever they are in their relationship — whether they’re choosing to stay, preparing to leave, or have already left.

Encourage them to talk to people who can provide Help and Guidance.

Find a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling or support groups. Call the Family Violence line at 310-1818 to get a referral to a program near you. Offer to go with them. If they have to go to the police, court or lawyer’s office, offer to go along for moral support.

Remember that you cannot “Rescue” them.

Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately they are the one who has to make the decisions about what they want to do. It’s important for you to support them no matter what they decide, and help them find a way to safety and peace.

Sexual Assault

How to support my friend?

If someone you know has been sexually assaulted, his or her reactions can vary. He or she might be angry, sad, or afraid. He or she might respond in ways that seem unusual to you – for example, they might laugh at seemingly inappropriate times or appear to have no reaction at all. In most cases of sexual assault, the victim is hurt by someone he or she knows or trusts and processing complicated emotions following an assault and deciding what he or she wants to do moving forward can take time. Here are some things you can do if someone discloses an assault to you:

  • Listen. If someone discloses an assault to you, it means he/she trusts you enough to share this incredibly difficult story. Just listening with compassion can be incredibly helpful.
  • Believe. Rather than asking a lot of questions, just let your friend know that you believe him/her and will support him/her as best as you can.
  • Give options. Sexual assault is a crime of power and control. In order to give a sense of control back to your friend, allow him/her to carefully choose what option is best. He/she may not make the same decision you might make; however, only the person who was sexually assaulted can decide what is a healthy process for him/her. You can help them explore their options by suggesting available resources – medical, legal, friends, family, counselors, or any other support you can think of. (You can also use the resources page on this website to find out available options.)
  • Take care of yourself. Hearing about an assault can be difficult, particularly when the victimization occurred to someone you care about. It is important that while you are supporting a friend, you are also taking care of your own physical and mental health.

What If My Friend Doesn’t Want to Report?

It is possible you could have a friend disclose to you that a sexual assault has occurred but then tell you that he/she does not want to report the assault. Your friend may ask you to keep the conversation private. There are a lot of reasons why someone may choose not to report sexual violence.

  • In most cases of sexual assault, the offender is known to the victim, which means it is likely someone she (or he) trusted, like a partner, relative or friend.
  • Your friend could be concerned that people won’t believe him/her or may not identify what occurred as a sexual assault.
  • A victim may have fear of or confusion about the criminal justice system or be ostracized in the community.
  • If drugs or alcohol were involved, victims may choose not to report because they are worried they will not be believed.
As mentioned before, only the victim can decide what is best for him or her. However, your support can help address some of the fears that might impact his/her decision as to whether or not he/she is comfortable reporting.
  • Let your friend know that you will believe him/her and support their decisions.
  • Remind them that no one, regardless of relationship or status within the community, has the right to hurt him/her and that no matter what, it is not their fault that this occurred.
  • Connect him/her with resources that can help set expectations and provide an understanding of the criminal justice process.
  • Tell your friend you will go with them to make the report, if they decide to do so.


If there is a situation where you fear for a friend’s safety, you may choose to discuss what is happening with a trusted adult support service though your friend requested privacy. However, if your friend is safe, help him/her by providing all possible options and allowing them to decide what to do moving forward.

Your Response Matters

Don’t worry about being perfect, but do recognize the importance of your role. Again, if someone discloses to you, it means they trust you enough to share this information with you. Be present – listen to what is being said and consider what you can do to support them. Sometimes your friend might not want to talk; sitting in silence can be just as powerful. Avoid asking questions like “Why did you go with him?” or “Did you fight back?” Questioning your friend’s behaviors could make him or her feel as though the victimization was his or her fault, even though it wasn’t and even if that’s not your intent. Focus on offering your friend support and providing options so he or she can decide what is best.

Mental Illness

Mental health disorders very rarely come out of the blue. In most cases, there are changes in a person’s behavior, their mood, their relationships with the people around them and their general involvement in daily life. These changes can be quite subtle and easy to miss. They can happen over a quite short period of time or sometimes they can emerge gradually over a number of months.

How to support my friend?

Supportive friends can play an important role in the mental health recovery process.  All too often, people respond negatively or dismissively when someone discloses that he/she has a mental health disorder.  

It is important to remember that mental health disorders are just as real as physical illnesses and that a person cannot just “snap out of it.” If you are unsure how to react when a friend tells you that they are struggling with a mental health disorder, it can be helpful to think about how you would react if that same friend told you that they had been diagnosed with a physical disorder like diabetes.

Show your support

Express your concern and sympathy, talk openly and make sure that your friend knows that he/she is not alone. The most important thing you can do is just offer to be available.

Listen. If your friend talks about their mental health diagnosis, don’t change the subject.  

  • Resist the temptation to give advice or dismiss their concerns.
  • If your friend discloses personal information, keep his/her trust by not sharing the information with others. The exception is talk about suicide. When suicide is mentioned, it’s time to tell a professional and get help! Call 1-800-784-2433

Ask what you can do to help. You can leave this open-ended (“I want to know how I can best support you.”) or suggest specific tasks that might be helpful (“Can I drive you to your appointment?”).  If you know that your friend is struggling in school, it can be helpful just to offer to study with him/her.

Ask if your friend is getting the treatment that she/he wants and needs. If not, offer to find out about available resources and help your friend find effective care.

Reassure your friend that you still care about him/her.

  • Many people with mental health disorders tend to withdraw from family and friends.
  • Continue to invite your friend to go to dinner, study, talk, or just hang out.
  • Even if he/she doesn’t always feel like talking or spending time together, it can be a comfort just to know that he/she has friends that care.  

Below are some tips about how you may want to respond if a friend tells you that they have a mental health disorder:

Some of the things to look for include the person:

  • Being more anxious, irritable or angry than usual
  • Not being able to concentrate or take decisions
  • Isolating themselves – not seeing their friends, dropping out of school or activities that they previously enjoyed
  • Appearing suspicious of friends and family
  • Being overly focused on certain things or being a perfectionist
  • Not eating or looking after themselves
  • Having disrupted sleep – which can mean not being able to sleep, or the opposite, sleeping too much.

Helping a Friend Who Has Lost a Loved One to Suicide


How to support my friend?

When a friend shows signs of abusing alcohol or other drugs, it is hard to know what to do or say.

Helping a loved one struggling with alcoholism or drug dependence can be heartbreakingly painful, but with help, it can be remarkably rewarding. At times, it can seem so overwhelming that it would be easier to ignore it, pretend that nothing is wrong and hope it just goes away. But in the long run, denying it or minimizing it, will be more damaging to you, other family members, and the person you are concerned about. Don’t Wait, Now Is The Time. If you need more support contact Medicine Hat Addiction & Mental Health Clinic: 403-529-3500

Speak Up and Offer Your Support

Talk to the person about your concerns, and offer your help and support, including your willingness to go with them to get help.

Express Love and Concern

Don’t wait for your loved one to “hit bottom.” You may be met with excuses, denial or anger, but be prepared to respond with specific examples of behavior that has you worried.

Don’t Expect the Person to Stop Without Help

No doubt, you have heard it before — promises to cut down, to stop, but it doesn’t work. Treatment, support, and new coping skills are needed to overcome addiction to alcohol and drugs.

How to talk

  • Do not try to talk when your friend is drunk or high. It is also a good idea to meet in a neutral place, but not at a bar or any place else that serves alcohol.
  • Talk about the effect your friend’s drinking or drug use has on whatever the person cares about most like career or children. Your friend may not be concerned about his or her situation, but may care deeply for the children and what the problem may be doing to them.

Support Recovery as an Ongoing Process

Once your friend or family member is receiving treatment, or going to meetings, remain involved. While maintaining your own commitment to getting help for yourself, continue to support their participation in ongoing care, meetings and recovery support groups. Continue to show that you are concerned about their successful long-term recovery.

Some Things You Don’t Want To Do:

  • Don’t Preach: Don’t lecture, threaten, bribe, preach or moralize.
  • Don’t Be a Martyr: Avoid emotional appeals that may only increase feelings of guilt and the compulsion to drink or use other drugs.
  • Don’t Cover Up, lie or make excuses for them and their behavior.
  • Don’t Assume Their Responsibilities: Taking over their responsibilities protects them from the consequences of their behavior.
  • Don’t Argue When Using: Arguing with the person when they are using alcohol or drugs is not helpful; at that point they can’t have a rational conversation.
  • Don’t Feel Guilty or responsible for their behavior, it’s not your fault.
  • Don’t Join Them: Don’t try to keep up with them by drinking or using yourself.

Loss of a Loved One to Suicide "PDF"

Why Don't They Just Leave?

Power & Control

Safety Plan

Self Care Tips

Crazy Love "Video"


ACE: How Trauma Can Affect You