Managing our own stress can be a struggle. When someone we care about is going through a crisis, it can hit us especially hard. Troubles come in many forms: a difficult breakup, change in jobs, health challenges or something else that causes pain. Knowing how to help can be a little tricky: we all have different needs and ways of coping. No cookie-cutter solution exists for every friend in crisis, yet there are ways to be there for someone when they need support most of all.


Sometimes we’re unsure of what to say, and it can be uncomfortable to find the right words. Maybe you think your advice seems empty, or you have none to give. We can’t solve every problem, and some problems are not ours to solve. Sometimes the best thing we can do for someone else is to listen. It seems like a small offering, yet it’s a gesture that can make all the difference. Lending an ear and intentionally listening can be better than the best advice in the world. Walking side by side with someone during tremendous pain demonstrates that you are there for them during their best times and at their lowest points too.

Offer advice only if asked

It can be hard not to jump in with solutions or words of wisdom. Unsolicited advice can be interpreted as if someone’s feelings are being dismissed or judged. This is a time to validate feelings rather than sum everything up that’s hurting the one you care about. While listening, you might hear someone say they’re frightened, sad, unsure or nervous—whatever describes their feelings. Tell them you hear them in your response. You could say: “I can see why you’re sad, and it makes sense you feel that way.” Not only will you reflect that you’ve heard what they’ve said, but it also reassures you are providing your undivided attention. Rather than saying, “Everything will be fine,” or “God doesn’t give you what you can’t handle,” a gentle “I don’t know what to say, but I am here for you,” provides comfort without judgment.

How can you help?

If you are not sure how to help, ask! How we would want someone to help us through a problem or situation may be extremely different from what someone else needs. You may be one to vent to friends immediately, whereas they might process things alone before talking. Asking open-ended questions can help you determine how someone feels and perhaps clue you in as to how you can help. The best way you can offer assistance is by always showing compassion.

Lend a hand

Making decisions or remembering to-dos in the midst of a crisis can be draining and drop off the radar altogether. Offering your help is a great way to lend a hand. Jumping in when you know what’s on your friend’s plate is even better. Take over carpool for the week, make a second lasagna for them while making one for your family or leave a coffee on their doorstep with a note. Not everyone can accept help, even when offered. Other times, naming ways someone could jump in and take over is one more thing to worry about. Show you care by simply showing up.

Change of scenery

Sometimes, getting out of the house can make all the difference. Things that generally relieve stress—going on a walk, meeting a friend for lunch or binging the newest release—fall by the wayside. Treat them to dinner, or if being away from home causes more anxiety, take a stroll around their block. Being present makes a big difference. It’s a way to express that you care, show that you value your friend and that they are loved.

Check on them…again

You may have a string of texts that have gone unanswered yet continue to reach out. Texting a heart emoji is plenty when you don’t have words or just want them to know you’re thinking of them. Don’t push having a conversation. That type of pressure can make people snap or feel more reclusive. They’ll let you know when they are ready to open up. Keep checking in because emotional support means everything.

Suggest resources

It can be so hard when someone we deeply care about is struggling. Being a friend doesn’t mean you have all the answers or should make critical decisions for them. Yet, there are times when someone needs more than just a good listener. Emotional pain can be too heavy to bear when not trained for a crisis. When you sense additional resources are critical, point them in the right direction or seek information for yourself. Support groups, therapists or other community programs are essential places to turn to during difficult times.

If you are concerned for a love one’s immediate safety or wellbeing, there are trained specialists ready to help:

  • Call 911. In a life-threatening emergency that involves mental health, notify the operator you need someone trained in crisis intervention.
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Call 988 to speak with a trained counselor.
  • Crisis Text Line. To connect with a crisis counselor, text NAMI to 741-741 to receive help via text message.
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline. To talk with a trained staff member in your area, call 800-656-HOPE for free services. Crisis chat is also available at
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline. For confidential support for anyone seeking resources or information, call 800-799-SAFE (7233).
  • Franciscan Health. Our dedicated team of doctors and specialists are here to help your mind, body and spirit. Find free resources or a network health professional near you online at

Sources: Franciscan Health, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Verywell Mind and Healthline

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