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How to Support a Teen Friend Who is Struggling

This week’s blog is written by Bespoke’s Mental Health Counseling Intern, Dina Abramowitz.

The past several weeks have been so difficult for all of us. We have been removed from our daily routines, leaving many teenagers and adults feeling lost, anxious, or even helpless. The drastic change we’ve all had to make to our lives feels so draining and endless at times. I miss being able to go out with my friends, eat at restaurants, and visit family. Who knew I would even miss riding the subway to school? These activities that make up our daily routines create structure and stability for us. Now, because of the pandemic and its consequences, many people are experiencing major instability in their lives.

I have been trying to video chat with friends as often as possible to maintain some sort of normalcy and social connection. I find it to be a great way of releasing built-up anxiety while checking in with friends. While many of my friends have been doing well and are taking advantage of their extra time at home, some have expressed that they are really struggling with the current situation and don’t know how to get out of their rut.

Keep in mind that feelings of anxiety and depression are very common among teenagers. One study found that in 2017, 3.2 million teenagers in the U.S. reported having at least one depressive episode that year. So don’t ignore the signs of a struggling friend because they need your help. If you have friends who are struggling, here are some ways to support them:

Firstly, try to recognize the signs.

  • Are they expressing sadness, anger, or other negative emotions?

  • Do they have a lack of interest in activities they usually enjoy?

  • Are they expressing negative thoughts about themselves?

  • Do they engage in alcohol or drug use or physically harm themselves?

  • Are they eating unhealthy amounts of food throughout the day (too much or too little)?

  • Are they talking about death or suicide in any way?

Once you realize that a friend may be struggling, let them know you’re there to listen and help. A simple statement can go a long way, such as “It seems like you’re having a hard time right now. What can I do to help you?” This allows your friend to see that you care and are concerned for their wellbeing.

Be a listening ear. Your friend may be feeling alone and seeking social support and validation. This is your opportunity to show your friend that they are not alone and that they can get through this difficult time. You can find fun ways of hanging out together over video chat like having an “arts ‘n crafts night” or “game night.” Also, brainstorm plans and fun activities for when the pandemic is over so your friend has something positive to look forward to.

It is important to remember that you are not responsible for taking care of your struggling friend all alone. Try to encourage your friend to speak to a parent or teacher that can help. Virtual therapy from home is an especially great way for your friend to manage their symptoms during this time. However, if your friend expresses thoughts of hurting themselves, it is important that you tell a trusted adult who can get your friend the proper care immediately. You might be afraid that your friend will be mad at you, but you might just be saving their life.

Contact us today if you or someone you know would benefit from individual or group therapy.

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