How to Support a Struggling Mate

When you notice a friend is going through a tough time, it can be hard to know how to help them. What do you say? What if it opens up a whole can of worms that you cannot cope with? What if they get offended?

Here are two expert tools you can use:


ALEC was developed by R U OK? Day, and is recommended by Movember.

It is a four-step process to help you navigate a conversation with a friend who might be doing it tough.

This explanation of ALEC comes from Movember.

A stands for Ask

Start by asking how he is feeling. It is worth mentioning any changes you have picked up on.

Use a prompt like, “You have not seemed yourself lately – are you feeling OK?”

You might have to ask twice. People often say “I’m fine” when they are not, so do not be afraid to ask twice. You can use something specific you have noticed, like, “It is just that you have not been replying to my texts, and that is not like you.”

L is for listen

Give him your full attention. Let him know you are hearing what he is saying and you are not judging. You do not have to diagnose problems or offer solutions.

Ask questions along the way, such as, “That cannot be easy – how long have you left this way?”

R U OK? adds this suggestion: Remind them whilst the distress they are feeling at this point in time may be overwhelming, it would not be permanent, and having a plan and support network is a great way of handling the distress.

E is for encourage action

Help him focus on simple things that might improve how he feels. Is he getting enough sleep? Is he exercising and eating well? Maybe there was something that had helped in the past – it is worth asking.

Suggest that he share how he is feeling with others he trusts, including his GP or a mental health professional. This will make things easier for both of you.

C is for check in

Suggest you catch up soon – in person if you can. If you cannot manage a meet-up, make time for a call, or drop him a message. This helps to show that you care; plus, you will get a feel for whether he is feeling any better.

2. The conversation practice tool

On their website, Movember offers a tool that allows you to practise a conversation ahead of time. You can use suggested prompts, or practise conversations for particular situations such as a relationship breakup.