How to help a friend dealing with family abuse or neglect
Kids Help Phone is here for you during the COVID-19 pandemic. Emergency services and child protection services are still available across Canada and mobile crisis support is also available in some areas. No matter what, you and your friend’s safety is a priority — it’s important to find ways to protect yourself, even while practising physical distancing.
Do you think a friend is experiencing abuse or neglect?
Maybe you sense that things aren’t right in your friend’s family. Maybe you witnessed something while you were at your friend’s house. Or maybe your friend told you about the abuse or neglect.
Even if your friend has sworn you to secrecy, it’s important to get a safe adult involved if someone you know is being abused or neglected. You can’t stop what’s happening to your friend by yourself.
What can I do?
- Be there: being there for your friend is one of the best things that you can do during this tough time.
- Listen: let your friend talk about what’s going on and be a good listener. Try not to tell them what they need to do, other than to get help.
- Be supportive: encourage your friend to get support from a safe adult. Offer to support your friend if they’re worried about telling an adult about the situation. You can also be there for your friend when they call child protection services or the police.
- Reach out: reach out to your friend if you think something’s wrong but they haven’t told you anything. You could ask about a specific incident and try saying something like, “She really grabbed you hard back there. Are you OK?” You could ask how things are going at home. You could say, “I’ve noticed that you seem down, and I’m worried about you. Is there anything that you want to talk about?”
- Believe: believe that your friend is telling the truth.
- Check in: call your friend to see how they’re doing. Understand that they may not always want to talk about it. Do things that will take your friend’s mind off of the tough stuff for a while. Activities like having a chat or playing online games together can help a lot.
- Take care of yourself: supporting a friend is hard work, so be sure to look after yourself. You may want to talk to someone, such as a guidance counsellor or other safe adult.
More info on family abuse:
Get information about how your thoughts, feelings and behaviours are connected and what you can do to care for your well-being. Learning about mental health can help empower you with the language to communicate how you’re feeling.
Practise with tools, tips and resources to help build your skills and improve your wellness in the way that feels best for you. Learn how to identify your strengths, communicate thoughts and feelings, overcome obstacles and connect with support.
Take a quiz
Find out how much you know about specific topics and get resources to learn more.
Play a game
Reduce stress and have fun at the same time.
Map out your support network
Identify who and where your community is to get help when you need it.
Share what’s on your mind
Try different tools to express how you’re feeling.
Make a safety plan
Access tools for safety planning and reporting.
Regain calm and relax with these activities.
Try a self-assessment
Identify how you’re feeling and find resources to support you right now.
Explore lived experiences from other young people across Canada. Learn from real-life youth stories, gain new ideas and ask questions to connect and inspire your own wellness journey.
If you need help right now, you can talk to a trained volunteer crisis responder about anything you're going through. No issue is too big or too small.
If you identify as Indigenous,you can ask to be connected with a First Nations, Inuk or Métis crisis responder (if one’s available) by messaging FIRST NATIONS, INUIT or METIS to 686868 or through Facebook Messenger. All of our e-mental health services are free 24/7 for people across Canada.
Connect with a professional counsellor to better understand what you're going through and help take a step in the direction you want to go.