How to Help a Friend With Mental Health or Substance Use Challenges

Mental health and substance use challenges can have a negative effect on youth and young adults at school and in their personal lives. Unfortunately, many youth do not get the help they need. Change makers can help without becoming experts on mental health and substance use issues. Here are three things you can do today.


Misinformation can cause harm and make it more difficult for young people with mental health or substance use challenges to receive the right help.

Fortunately, you don’t have to know absolutely everything to help your friends deal with their mental health or substance use challenges. The following resources dispel common myths and can help you learn what you need to know to make a difference:

YE4C Mental Health Resources Page Learn about topics related to mental health, find places where you can get help if you need it, hear from other youth about their struggles with mental health challenges, and help others get through tough times.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Resources Access fact sheets from NIMH that address frequently asked questions about mental health challenges.        

YE4C Substance Abuse Resources Page Get the information you need to understand the effects of drugs, how teens misuse them, and how to find help to quit. You can also hear inspiring stories from youth in recovery.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – Drug Facts for Teens Check out NIDA’s blog for teens that addresses frequently asked questions about drugs.


If you think your friend is going through a difficult time, be there.” – Rachel

Many young people turn to their friends for support when they are experiencing stress. Your friends will appreciate knowing that you are willing to listen, talk, and help them get the support they need. Find appropriate ways to support your friends while still taking care of your needs.

Watch Rachel and Lauren’s story and see how their friendship helped Rachel cope with bipolar disorder.

Check out these tips for what to say to a friend who is struggling with mental health challenges. Also learn what to say to a friend who is using drugs or alcohol and what to keep in mind when talking with them about drug and alcohol use.


“If it wasn’t for me seeking help, I would not be here.” - Macklemore

Knowing where and how to get support can make a big difference. Let your friends know that it’s okay to ask for professional help. You should also get the support of a responsible adult to guide you through this process. You can visit the YE4C Support page to find trusted resources on mental health and substance use, including confidential hotlines that are available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.