What To Do & Not Do When Your Friend Has Had A Breakdown

Your friend or loved one has had a breakdown.  Maybe they’ve had a depression relapse, or a self harm relapse.  Perhaps an old traumatic memory has surfaced, and they’re going through a dark night of the soul. Maybe they’re experiencing a spiritual emergency. You may feel the heavy weight of this news and are unsure of where your responsibility lies. You may feel helpless.  Here’s a list of things you can do, and not do, to move through this situation with compassion and effectively support the person you care about. 

1. DO Let them know you care, but give them space.  DON’T force an interaction.

Your friend or loved one may not be ready to talk, so please do not force it.  You risk them blocking you out of their life. Having a depressive episode can be very overwhelming, whether this is the first time this has happened or the 10th time.  Please do not take it personally if they do not respond.  

Here are some examples of appropriate responses:

“I am thinking about you, and I want you to know that I love you.”

“I am here for you if you need me.”

“Let me know how I can help.”

When in doubt, send a heart emoji.

2. DO choose a calm, careful response.  DON’T have overly dramatic reactions.

When you’re friend or loved one tells you they have had a breakdown, an emotionally reactive response will not help and may actually work to intensify the situation.  I once told someone I had a psychotic breakdown, and their response was, “REALLY?!” I realize their reaction was probably a result of their discomfort and awkwardness around serious issues, but it nonetheless felt trivializing at the time.  

These are some validating things you can say when a friend is struggling:

“I’m sorry to hear that you’re not feeling great.” 

“That’s a lot to go through.”  

“I hear you and I see you.”

“I may not be able to understand exactly what you are feeling, but I am here for you.” 

3. DO pray (and send loving energy to your friend)DON’T feel like it is your job to make them happy or “fix things.” 

This may sound ridiculous, but sending positive energy and thinking loving thoughts about someone helps.  Although you may not be able to see energy, you can feel it. Have you ever been in a situation, maybe at work, when everyone was in a happy, positive mood, then someone walked in angry?  The angry person might not have shown any visible signs, but you could feel the shift in energy. Energy, and the intention behind the energy often speaks louder than words. Pray for your friend’s happiness.  Pray for a miracle, a shift from fear to love. Envision sending light from your heart to theirs.  

Don’t feel like it is your responsibility to change your friend’s mood or “make” them happy.  It is their responsibility, and theirs alone. You can be there for them, love and support them, but you cannot force change or make them do or not do anything.  They must choose.