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Two students walking and talking
October 17, 2019
3 mins read

How to ask for help

Most of us are never taught how to have conversations, especially ones that go deeper than surface level. At this point in our lives, it’s kind of assumed we know how to ask for help when we need it.

It’s so common for us to talk about grades or exam questions or weekend plans, but what if you need to talk about something more serious? What if you feel like you’re struggling?

Talking about “basic” student problems is actually a great segue to discussing your deeper personal challenges. Whether you’re feeling a bit envious of your friends, afraid of falling behind in a class, having trouble adjusting to campus life, or something more personal—you deserve to be heard.

Relationships work when both sides are open and supportive of one another. Emotional times and deep conversations between people are ultimately what strengthen relationships. 

Looking back on my own friendships, I can pinpoint the times when I became emotionally closer to my friends. Those times can be narrowed down to specific conversations when I opened up about my problems.

As a bonus, I’ve gotten great advice from some unexpected people. I’ve learned that a caring friend can give a perspective I usually haven’t thought about.

It might be worth reaching out if you’ve got something on your mind, too. Here are some strategies and simple sentences you can try to start a meaningful conversation.

Set the tone that works for you

“I’m going through a tough time and I feel like I can trust you. Can I talk to you about it?”

  • This question helps to set the tone for a more serious discussion.
  • Don’t take it personally if they don’t respond well. It’s hard to know what someone else might be going through that can make it hard for them to talk or listen. Respect their boundaries and learn how to set healthy ones in your relationships, too.

Ask for what you need

“I’m feeling (overwhelmed/anxious/useless). I don’t really know what I want, but I would like some company right now.”

“I’m not having a great day, and could really use a break. Can we grab dessert together?”

“Things haven’t been going great lately, I’m going through a lot. Can you check in with me once a day to make sure I’m taking care of myself? If you want, I can check in with you, too.”

  • Even if you don’t know what you need, being direct is helpful for you and the other person. The people who care about you probably want to know how to help you.

  • If you’re feeling hopeless or thinking about harming yourself, it’s important to get help. You can call or chat with a trained responder anytime by calling the Crisis Centre at 1-800-784-2433 or by visiting If you are in immediate danger, contact 911 or visit your nearest emergency room.

Reach out to a professional

If you’re having trouble talking with a friend, or you feel like your challenge isn’t getting easier, professionals are there to listen and help you.

There is a wide range of professional staff at UBC who can help you, whether you're struggling with mental health, physical health, financial issues, or your academics.

If you’re unsure about what kind of help you need, use Empower Me—it provides 24/7 counselling and life coaching, free for all students. They can help with anything you're concerned about and will give you the option of getting help online, in person, or by phone.

Helping others

If a friend reaches out for support, it can sometimes be difficult to know how to respond—and that's ok. Find out how to help by visiting the Wellness Centre or by checking out this resource.

Mental health affects us all—so remember to reach out if you're struggling and to check in on friends to see if they need to talk.