How to Help Someone Who Feels Hopeless
If someone you love has just experienced a significant loss or life change, they may experience temporary feelings of hopelessness as they grieve and adjust to a new normal. If those feelings stick around, happen for no apparent reason, or make it hard for them to do the things they normally like to do, they may need professional support to begin to feel better.
There are, however, things you can do to help them right now.
Check in with them gently. Ask questions in a way that lets your friend know you care. Be open to listening to them, and respect that there may be things they don’t feel comfortable sharing. You may want to know more, but prying may cause the person to withdraw and make sharing harder for them down the line.
Be patient. Talking about their feelings may be difficult, scary, or overwhelming. Be respectful of what they feel ready to share with you. Show them you are a safe space for them to share their feelings at their own pace.
Show empathy. Don’t try to fix their situation, make them see the bright side of things, or shame them for feeling hopeless. (“But you have so much going for you!”) Instead, start with listening and then let them know you have heard them and understand this is a hard time. You can even repeat back to them what you have heard so they know you are working to understand what they are going through.
Offer support. But offer it in ways that won’t harm or exhaust you. Support can range from just listening to more hands-on help like helping them find professional support.
Encourage them to seek professional help. There is a limit to what kinds of support friends can provide. Let your friend know a trained mental health professional, such as a school counselor or therapist, can provide help specific to their situation.
Share your own experiences. If you have struggled with hopelessness, sharing your experience and what brought you hope can make your friend feel less alone.
Keep inviting them to activities. Sometimes people who feel hopeless will withdraw from friends or activities they enjoy. Inviting them to spend time with you may help them feel less isolated and give them new positive experiences to look forward to.
Take it seriously if they mention self-injury or suicide. Do not keep it a secret, even if they ask you to. Tell a trusted adult and share these resources with them:
If you or they need help right now:
- Text HOME to 741-741 for a free, confidential conversation with a trained counselor any time of day.
- Text or call 988 or use the chat function at 988lifeline.org.
- If this is a medical emergency or there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.