Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Friends Helping Friends

Who do you talk to when you are depressed? If you are an adult, you probably could come up with an entire list of people to confide in. But what if you are a teenager? Who do you talk to?
My background is in school counseling, and as a new counselor I often assumed that teens suffering from depression would come talk to me about their problems. I quickly learned that this is not the case. If I found out a student was depressed I would hear it from the student's friends first.
According to the National Institute of Justice (a government research organization that focuses on reducing violence and victimization), teens who might be depressed or suicidal most often confide in their friends. Occasionally, a teen will confide in a trusted teacher or school counselor. Parents are often the last to know that their child may be suffering from severe depression.
As a teen or young adult, you may be the first person to notice changes in your friend's behavior or mood. It may feel scary when a friend confides in you about his/her emotions. Here are some steps to make the process easier:
1. Listen: Take the time to listen to your friend without interrupting or judging.
2. Reach out for help: Encourage your friend to talk with a trusted adult like a school counselor, family member, family friend, teacher, clergy member, or health care provider. These adults may have more experience or know how to get help.
3. Find solutions: You can help empower your friend to take action. Encourage your friend to think of ways to improve his/her situation.
4. Keep your friend safe: Sometimes a person may feel so overwhelmed it may be difficult to take action. If your friend does not get help from an adult quickly enough, talk with an adult that you trust. If your friend is being harmed or talking about suicide, or hurting other people, it is important to contact an adult right away. It is important to maintain safety and get a trusted group of people to rally around your friend.
5. Keep up the support: Keep talking with your friend about his/her feelings. Let your friend know that you care about how he/she is doing, and include your friend in activities.
If you would like to learn more about ways to help your friends, please check out The Sonoma County Peer Outreach Coalition on Facebook at
If you would like to get involved in the Peer Outreach Coalition, please contact us! We would love to hear from you!

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