Being a teenager isn’t always simple, especially with the added complications of the COVID-19 pandemic – online school, changing physical distancing guidelines, activities put on hold. The last two years have been a whirlwind at best. If you have had a rough time adjusting or notice that a friend hasn’t been themselves recently, that’s OK! It’s important to remember that your emotions and mental wellbeing won’t always be perfect, but there are steps you can take to support yourself and your friends.
However, sometimes the support a close friend or peer needs goes beyond what you are able to provide. That’s why the teen Mental Health First Aid curriculum encourages you to connect your friend or yourself to a trusted adult for more help and resources. An adult may be able to get them professional resources or help and may better understand how to keep your friend safe in a crisis situation.
You can start by discussing the reasons why connecting them to an adult is a good idea and asking your friend whom they would like to involve. Some examples of a trusted adult are:
Pulling in an adult can feel scary – especially if your friend told you not to tell anyone, or if your friend doesn’t want to involve an adult at all. But getting them adequate support is the most important thing you can do if you’re worried about them – and never keep a crisis situation a secret. If your friend refuses to tell an adult about a crisis they’re experiencing, such as abuse, self-injury or suicidal thoughts, you may need to tell an adult yourself without your friend’s consent.
If you do find yourself in this position, remember:
You can also connect your friend to anonymous online resources such as phone or text counseling services, and even connect them to a professional outside your area if they’re worried about someone recognizing them. However, if your friend is in immediate crisis, their life and safety are more important than their confidentiality.
After you get your friend in touch with a trusted adult, and they are receiving the proper help, you can begin to think about having a follow-up conversation. But remember, while you can ask about ways you can support them as they recover, you are not responsible for them getting better.
Even if it feels like a difficult decision at first, when you involve a trusted adult, you show your friend that you care about their wellbeing and their mental health. Their safety is the most important factor to consider, and you are being a great friend by intervening if you believe they are in a crisis situation. By involving a trusted adult, you can #BeTheDifference for your friends if they’re experiencing a challenge.
National Crisis Resources
Additional Resources for Teens
These online resources are free and may help you and your friends cope with stress and manage your mental health during these uncertain times.
Your school or youth-serving organization can bring teen Mental Health First Aid training to your community. For more information about tMHFA, visit MHFA.org/teens.
Mental Health First Aid USA. (2020). teen Mental Health First Aid. Washington, DC: National Council for Mental Wellbeing.