JAN 2022 | By Mental Health First Aid USA
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:
- Parents, caregivers or guardians – unless your friend has told you there is abuse in the home.
- Teachers or coaches.
- An adult family member, such as a sibling, cousin, aunt or uncle.
- Community leaders, such as a religious leader.
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:
- Mental health and substance use challenges can make it difficult for people to think logically and clearly. Your friend may have unrealistic fears about telling an adult or believe they will be in trouble.
- Make it clear to your friend that you must tell an adult because you are really worried about them and you care about them, not because you are snitching or gossiping.
- If the situation is not a crisis or emergency, you can talk to a trusted adult about your friend’s situation without naming them first, to see if the adult thinks there’s a problem.
- Once your friend has support and is recovering, they will likely be glad you got them help. They may even be able to see that you had the best intentions and care about their wellbeing.
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
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 800-273-TALK (8255) for free 24/7 support. Call 888-628-9454 for support in Spanish.
- Crisis Text Line: Text “MHFA” to 741-741 for free 24/7 crisis counseling.
- Lifeline Crisis Chat: Visit org to talk online with crisis centers around the United States.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline: Call 800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 667-46 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
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.
- Jed Foundation: Guidance on how to recognize a friend’s emotional distress online and how to get that friend help. Read: Help a Friend in Need
- TeensHealth: A safe place for teens to access honest and accurate information on mental health issues, including specific information about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and coping with stress. Read: Coronavirus (COVID-19): How You Can Make a Difference, Stress and Coping Center.
- National Alliance on Mental Health: Information for teens and young adults about managing mental health and supporting friends. Read: Teens and Mental Health.
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.