Teen-to-teen interactions are already awkward enough without the added stress of mental health concerns. I mean, how difficult is it just to make the small decision to sit at a different table during lunch? When you’re worried about someone, there’s always this uncomfortable idea percolating in your head: should I say something, should I not? Is it my place? Will they hate me? Despite the millions of answers that could be conceptualized, the answer is almost always “yes.”
About a year ago, I went through a difficult time myself. I was incredibly down for no particular reason, I didn’t have the motivation to get through school, I was always incredibly tired, and I got angry at the drop of a hat; life sort of felt like one big obstacle that I was trying to dizzily navigate my way through. I hadn’t noticed a change in myself; I thought it was an “end of the year lull.” No one said anything, but I could sense that my friends felt a bit uncomfortable around me when I was like this.
After a few months of feeling this way without talking to anyone about it, one of my best friends called me on the phone. I had texted him that I wasn’t doing well, and he immediately asked me to tell him what was the matter. He said he had noticed a change in me, and that he asked me to explain exactly how I felt, and that’s what I did. This friend helped me discover that I was going through something that he had gone through as well: depression.
After my friend reached out to me, I felt so much better about everything. I was understood. I finally felt as if I someone cared about my well being, and I saw the change in myself that he had as well. After my friend had reached out to me, I suddenly wished it had happened a lot sooner. But people often feel so uncomfortable asking each other whether or not they’re ok, because not everyone wants to hear the real answer. I want to encourage you to reach out if you think someone isn’t doing well, because by doing so, you can help them feel understood.
Even if you have never gone through the specific issue that you see someone else struggling with, this person will be so grateful to have someone to talk to about it. The best thing that you can do for someone is to end his or her loneliness, because most people will not take the leap and reach out for the same reason you haven’t yet: there is no way of knowing what will happen.
What if the person you reach out to is going through a seriously hard time, and their truth will scare you? It’s possible; however, you can’t let the possibilities get in the way of helping someone who needs it. If someone is willing to open up to you enough to tell you what’s happening in their life, it will be a gift for both of you, because that’s how real friendships are built: by talking about the hard stuff.
The way that my friend reached out to me is a great example of how to do this in an easy way. You can always text the person you’re worried about and say something like “hey, do you want to talk? I’ve noticed you’ve been acting differently lately.” If the person wants to talk, they will! If not, at least you made yourself available for them to come to when they’re ready.
I feel as though many teens are hesitant to reach out because they feel as though the person they are concerned for may be offended or feel accused, or maybe reaching out is just something that they don’t feel comfortable with because talking to people is awkward sometimes! Through past (and personal) experiences, I’ve gathered that it’s better to say something, because generally people are less offended than they are flattered that someone is looking out for them. If you don’t feel as if you’re close enough with the person that you’re worried about to approach them directly, you can always talk to one of their friends and ask if everything’s alright, or you can suggest that they reach out to this person instead of doing it yourself.
All in all, reaching out makes the world feel a little bit warmer. If we’re all looking out for each other, then nobody has to feel quite as lonely as they may have before. I know that this isn’t easy, but it is worth it. It made such a difference in my life, and it could do the same for some other teen out there too
– by Chloe, 15