Be Ready for the Ups & Downs

Helping someone with mental health issues can put supporters on the proverbial “emotional rollercoaster.” Don’t give up. Stay connected and be sure to take care of yourself too.

Some days you feel that you know just what to do to be helpful and it seems to be working. Other days, it can feel like everything is going backward, and you feel frustrated, helpless, anxious, or overwhelmed.

Practice empathy, not just sympathy. It will give you the emotional space needed to be an empathetic supporter and serve as a reminder that this isn’t about you. 

Finally, take steps that give you the strength, resilience, and energy to be an effective supporter. Offering care to someone starts with caring for yourself.

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Share Hope

Hope is one of the most important gifts supporters can bring to the mental health journey. Your hope empowers the person you care about to begin to imagine a better life, even when they cannot envision it themselves.

Everyone can put together a vision of hope in their own words, no matter how severe their mental health condition. Help them write down their specific vision for the future. Recognize that hope can be fragile, and a person can be crushed by causal or even well-meaning comments. Support their vision, even if aspects seem unrealistic at first. Over time, the person may – as we all do – adjust the specifics to adapt to current realities and new opportunities. 

When you can offer positive encouragement, the person you are trying to help will be more appreciative of your support and more likely to make progress.

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A person’s mental health journey will likely last a lifetime. While there will be setbacks, there will also be triumphs. Recognize and applaud every step of progress, no matter how small.

Celebrating victories helps to make the mental health journey a more successful one. Recent research shows that confrontation and punishment are not drivers of long-term change and life success. What works? Accelerating access to positive reinforcement.

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Focus On Strengths

As a caring supporter, your most important opportunity is to reinforce strengths, not diminish them by finding flaws. Instead help your loved one feel and be stronger by acknowledging small steps forward and the work it took to achieve them.

To help you appreciate their effort, use a “strengths-based” approach to describing situations, rather than focusing on the negative.

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Ask & Listen

Express your desire to understand what the person is going through by asking questions and being fully present in the conversation.

Welcome them as they are. Ask to hear their story and how they’re feeling. Inquire about behaviors that seem unusual or concerning. Whether good or bad, their experience is their story, and important to respect.

Avoid acting without full knowledge of what has happened or how the person perceives it. Instead take time to listen carefully and gain empathetic understanding of the situation.  That will allow you to be a more effective supporter and partner.

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It’s not your job to “fix” the person. Your role is to be a great partner, helping them to stay focused and hopeful. You aren’t expected to be an expert or have all the answers. Remember, it is their journey, not yours.

Supporters can overcome the fixer mindset by practicing “empathetic detachment.” Empathize with their situation but embrace that you’re not responsible for changing it.

Instead, provide a safe space and allow them to determine what level of support will help them most at that point in time.

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Let your friends know that you are feeling like you

would like to talk.

Be strong by reaching out for support from

your friends and family.

If a friend is experiencing mental health concerns, you can provide valuable support by letting your friend know you are there to talk and listen.



Looking for a simple way to #GoFirst and start an open and honest conversation about mental health? Send this sticker to a friend, asking, “how are you, really?” and show your support by listening to what’s on their mind.

Talking about how we feel to those we love can help us feel supported and less alone. Try sharing your “current mood” with a friend. It can work both ways. If you open up, it might encourage them to do the same.


If you notice a friend or family member who doesn't seem quite like themselves lately, check in and start a conversation.


Check in on those around you every once in a while by sending this sticker and letting them know you truly care about how they’re doing.

Apply Today To Become A

Okay to Say

On Campus

Learn more about becoming an Okay to Say on Campus partner. Interested in starting conversations about mental health on your campus? Collaborate with Okay to Say and apply to be a partner here to gain access to our interactive toolkit. 

Why It’s Important to Talk

Mental health issues are common, particularly among students.
Schools, colleges and universities across the U.S. are finding new ways to meet the growing demand for behavioral health services, especially during the pandemic. However, much work remains to be done to reach students, provide information to help them access resources and services, and create a culture where it’s okay to talk about mental health.
Academic stressors, social and relationship pressures, work and extracurricular responsibilities can all contribute to significant emotional challenges for students.

According to Higher Education Today, students of color, LGBTQ+ students, first-generation students, students facing basic-needs insecurities, and international students experience greater mental health burdens and even more barriers to care.*

Higher Education Today, “Centering Equity in Student Mental Health Task Forces: Lessons Learned From the University of Michigan,” 2020.

You Can Help

By starting more conversations about mental health on your campus, you can help. 72% of students said they felt hopeful and supported after a friend reached out. **

The Okay to Say on Campus toolkit is intended to help you amplify the message that it’s okay to talk about mental health and normalize those conversations on your campus. You can play a role in creating a mental health campus culture that is safe and supportive. Students see better outcomes when conditions are identified early and treated.

Apply to be a
Campus Partner

Interested in starting conversations about mental health on your campus? Collaborate with Okay to Say.

The toolkit includes a variety of easy-to-use physical and digital materials, many of which can be customized with your logo and information about your school’s specific mental health resources. You’ll also be equipped with ideas for campus initiatives and additional mental health resources.

You Can Help

See our Campus Partners!

Case Study Showcase

University of Texas at Austin

WeCare UTD

Send a sticker

If you think someone you love may be experiencing a mental health concern, and you’re not sure what to say, check out our Giphy stickers with suggested ways you can start a conversation.

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