Spotlight Support from Friends and Family - Mental Health

Top Storytelling Tips

Download / print

  1. Show supportive loved ones
    1. Elevate stories of friends and family who are supportive — or eventually become supportive — to make asking for help less scary and to normalize peer support.
  2. Depict warning signs
    1. Within these stories, include information on how to recognize warning signs and effectively support someone who is struggling.

Research shows that people are most comfortable talking about mental health struggles with friends; however, friends don’t always know how to help in a meaningful way. This is especially true for teens and young adults, who may not have the maturity and experience to support their friends — especially when distress, substance misuse, or thoughts of suicide are involved. That’s one reason that family members are also a critical part of this support system. Studies show that strong and supportive family relationships are an important protective factor against suicidal thoughts and behavior (that is, they make it less likely we will experience those issues). The best support network for someone who is struggling or living with a mental health condition involves both friends and family.

Friends and family members are a critical part of any individual’s support system, but don’t always know how to help in a meaningful way.

To be effective support systems for others, people need to know the warning signs, and know the right way to reach out, start conversations, and offer support. It’s also helpful for viewers to be aware of judgmental or diagnostic approaches that could make things worse. For example, avoid comments like, “What’s wrong with you lately,” “I’m really angry that you keep canceling plans and not returning calls,” “I think you need to get on meds.”

In A Million Little Things, Eddie, played by David Giuntoli, finds support from his friends while grappling with depression and trauma in the aftermath of a car accident. (Image courtesy of American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved/Photo: Jack Rowand)

Use your storytelling to help viewers understand warning signs and visualize what a supportive friend or family member looks like:

  • Depict friends or family members gently expressing concern, listening without judgment, and then asking how they can be supportive or help find professional support. 
  • Recognize that supporting friends and family members can take a significant toll on one’s own mental health. Characters or cast members who are offering support should be open and honest about the impact it’s having on them, and take action to look after themselves so they can better look after others.

Download / print

more in part 6