Tips on how to support your friends or partner(s)
Sometimes your friends or partner(s) might need help with how they're feeling. If you're unsure about how to help them, this information is for you.
This page has tips and ideas that could help you support someone who is struggling. There are also some ideas for looking after your own wellbeing during this time.
Some of our tips might work better for you than others, or some tips might feel too difficult to try right now. Just try whatever feels comfortable for you in this moment.
What does it mean to support a friend or partner?
To understand what supporting a friend or partner might involve, you might want to read our introduction page first.
It can be hard to know if someone's struggling with their mental health, because everyone can act differently when they're going through a tough time.
When a friend or partner opens up about how they're feeling, you can:
- Just listen to them. Let them talk about how they're feeling in a way that's best for them.
- Ask them what would help right now. It could be to keep listening to them. They might want a distraction or to do something together.
- Reassure them. There isn't a perfect thing to say. But you could try to remind them that you care and are there for them.
- Do things you enjoy together. Doing things like watching a film or going for a walk might help them cope with their feelings.
- Try to be patient with them. Being there for someone can feel hard sometimes, but it can make a big difference. Remember to take breaks and just try to support them when you can.
In some cases, your friend or partner might open up to you before you try offering support. If so, you can read our information on what to do if they open up to you first.
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Being there for your friend or partner at this time can be really important to them. But it's important to take time for yourself, and to look after yourself too.
You can support in lots of different ways, like trying to:
- Help them with practical things. You might go to appointments with them or help them with missed school or college work.
- Boost their confidence and self-esteem by helping them find things they're good at or doing them together.
- Find ways for them to stay in contact with family, friends and other people in their lives.
- Do things together you enjoy like shared hobbies, walking in nature or watching a film. They might say no but it's important to keep trying to invite them to do things.
- Check in on them. Sending a text to see how they are or sending them a photo of something they like can let them know you care.
- Look at other options for ways to help them like places to find support or finding what could help them at home or school.
- Ask if there's support for you too. If they're under a service like CAMHS, they might be able to offer you some sessions together. There are many other places you can go for support for yourself. For more information, see our page on finding support.
- Learn more about what they're going through. You can ask them if they've seen or read anything that explains how they're feeling. You can also read our page about understanding mental health.
- Remind them of why they matter. You could talk about how they're important to you or about the good times you've had together.
As everyone is different, it's important you ask them what the best way to support them is.
Sometimes, I would just sit there and just listen, just listen to her express the feelings and emotions she's feeling – Tiffany, 16
Explain how much support you can give
Telling them how much you can support them might also include what support you can't give them and when you're not available. This is sometimes called ‘setting boundaries’, but you don't have to use this phrase if you don't want to.
Setting boundaries doesn't mean you won't be there for them or that you're a bad friend or partner. It helps to explain what you can and can't always do.
Some examples of boundaries might be:
- Saying when you're not available. For example, if you're not on your phone at night or if you have times when talking isn't best.
- Telling them about certain things you're not comfortable talking about.
- Telling them what you need or want from them.
- Keeping them updated on how you're doing. You might not be able to support them as much when you're having a difficult time.
- Letting them know that you're struggling, and need to talk to someone about what's going on.
- Offering to help them find someone to talk to. You can also do this when you don't think you're the best person to help.
If setting a boundary doesn't go well, you can try again at another time when things are less stressful.
Remember: it's okay if your boundaries change. You might not always feel the same about how you can help, and that's okay.
If supporting them is still too much for you to handle, you might want to think about if you can continue to help them or not. As hard as that might be, it's important to take care of yourself too.
Look after your own wellbeing
While you're supporting someone else it's really important to make sure you look after yourself too.
- Try not to take on too much. Supporting someone on your own can be a big responsibility. Try to encourage them to reach out to other people they trust too, so they have more support.
- Set some boundaries. Setting these together can help make things work best for everyone involved. It's okay if those boundaries need to change over time.
- Open up to others. You can ask your friend or partner what they're okay with you talking about to others so that you can feel supported too.
- Think about how it affects you and take a break. Supporting someone can become overwhelming, or affect your mood, sleep or eating. If this happens, it's important to let them know and take a break if you need to.
- Make time for your feelings. You might be feeling lots of different things when supporting someone else. Find more information on our page about understanding your feelings.
- Look after your wellbeing. Remember to take time for yourself and do things that help you relax. For things you can try, see our page on looking after your wellbeing.
- Think about how you're spending your time. It's good to be a supportive friend and partner. But you might also want to spend time on other things that make you who you are. This could be things like being part of a sports club or volunteering.
- Talk about your own feelings with someone you trust. If you want to talk things over confidentially, you can speak to counsellors on Childline or a trained supporter through The Mix.
- Remind yourself that things change. Relationships, friendships and how you're feeling can always change over time. It might not feel like things are working well right now but life can always get better.
Counsellors listen to you and give you a safe space to explore how you’re thinking, feeling and behaving. They also help you find ways to cope with things.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
Confidentiality is about keeping your information private.
It means that when you talk to professionals they shouldn’t tell anyone else what you’ve said.
They will only share what you tell them in certain situations. For example, if you ask them to or if they’re worried that you or someone else could be in danger.
See our page on confidentiality for more information.Visit our full treatment and support glossary
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
These are services that support young people with their mental health.
You might see them called different names sometimes, but they offer the same type of services for young people:
- In Wales, they're called Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (SCAMHS)
- In England or Wales, you might also hear them called Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS)
Find out more in our CAMHS information hub.
This information was published in September 2023. We will revise it in 2026.
The quotes on this page are from young people we spoke to while making this information. They've given us their consent to use their quotes in our information. The words, experiences and opinions in the quotes are not related to the young people shown in any of the photographs we use.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.