How to ask a friend if they're okay

Checking in with your family and friends and asking how they're going is important, but can be tricky.

To make the conversation easier, you’ve got to figure out four things: the right location, the most constructive questions to ask, the best ways to respond and what to do afterwards.

When you're worried about someone, sometimes the best thing you can do is listen and let them know you're there for them.

illustration of two people talking to eachother

Having the chat

Find a nice quiet time and place to chat– and don’t force it if they say they don’t feel like talking.

  • Try to remove any distractions before you start.

  • If they say they don't want to talk, let them know you're there if they change their mind.

an illustration of a person putting their arm around someone else

Starting the conversation

Ask them open-ended questions, rather than just telling them what you think. When people are going through something tough, often, they just want to be understood. Here are a few examples:

  • 'Hey, how have you been lately? What's been happening?'

  • 'You haven't seemed yourself lately. Is there something you'd like to talk about?'

  • 'How are you doing? Anything you want to chat about?'

a cartoon image of two people chatting with one another

How to respond

After someone’s told you about something tough they’re going through, don’t just move on to the next topic.

  • Be a good listener by paying attention, asking questions and checking you've understood what they've said.

  • Offer your support, but don’t try and solve their problems unless they ask for your advice.

  • Ask them why they may be feeling that way.

  • Let them know you're there for them.

  • Don't judge what they say, even if you don't agree with them.

an illustration a person embracing another person, with a third person also there

If they say they're not okay

Ask them what's going on for them, listen and acknowledge their feelings.

  • Ask what they think will help them to feel better.

  • Ask what you can do to make them feel better and give them support.

  • If you feel like they need more support you could ask if they've considered talking to an adult they trust or seeing a mental health professional.

  • Tell a parent, teacher, or someone else you trust if you’re afraid they might not be in a safe place.

After your chat

After someone’s told you they’re going through a tough time, make sure to check in on them. You might even want to meet with them again to chat about what’s going on at another time. Many important discussions you’ll have with friends and family will take place over several different chats on separate days. This is normal– it’s because after talking about something important, people take time to process how they’re feeling.

It’s not always easy supporting people who are going through a tough time. For tips on how to look after yourself when supporting others, read our article here.

What can I do now?