© 2019 Clinical Psychology Outreach Program 

A partner of the Psychology Clinic at Queen's University

Kingston, ON, Canada

queens.cpop@gmail.com  

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SUPPORT A FRIEND

Thank you to all the volunteers who created this video! The transcript is below. Thanks also to the Peer Support Centre for coming up with the TALKS acronym!

Support from peers and professionals can make a big difference when someone is struggling with stress, with a mental health issue, or with a personal issue of some kind. However, it can be hard to know exactly what to do when someone we know is struggling, whether it’s a roommate, classmate, or friend.

 

Our friends at the Peer Support Centre developed a strategy that we find really useful. The acronym is easy to remember: TALKS.

 

T is for Tell them you care

This step is about recognizing when your peer might be having a hard time and letting them know you care. You might recognize that they’re acting differently from their usual selves. Maybe they’ve started skipping class or they’re not hanging out with friends anymore. You might notice that they’re acting more irritable, or that their sleep patterns have changed. These changes might mean that your friend is having a particularly tough time and needs a bit more support than usual.

 

If you notice these changes, the first step is to let them know that you care about them and that they have support. It’s important that your approach is out of concern, and not out of judgement or pity.

 

A is for Ask them gently

So you’ve noticed some changes in a friend, and you would like to ask them gently about it. One thing you could say is:

“I’ve noticed that you have a lot going on. How’s it going?”

What really matters here is how you say it. It isn’t about confronting them, but rather about starting a conversation! They may not be ready to talk. You can always respond with:

“I understand. I want you to know I am here for you, and I’ll check in with you again soon.”

 

L is for Listen attentively

If your friend is ready to have a conversation with you, now is the time to listen attentively. This means putting your phone away and really trying to demonstrate empathy, really trying to put yourself in their shoes to understand their experience. This isn’t about trying to solve their problems by providing advice. And don’t downplay their experiences, by putting a silver lining around it. It’s unhelpful to say things like, “I’m sure it’s fine,” or “Well, other people have it worse,” or “At least you’re smart.” You want to actively listen to show your friend that you have their back, which usually means saying less and listening more.

 

K is for Know your resources

You should never feel alone when you’re helping your peers, or when you’re dealing with your own issues. The Queen’s community has Got Your Back, too. It’s important to know what resources are out there for your friend. There are people and organizations you can turn to when you or a friend is going through a tough time, like counsellors and the Peer Support Centre.

S is for Stay in touch

Remember that problems aren’t resolved overnight, and that’s OK. Support is an ongoing process so try to touch base and stay in touch with your friend often.