Information for young people about how to support a friend who is struggling with the way they're feeling.
If your friend is going through a difficult time or is struggling with the way they're feeling it can be hard to know what to do. Are you looking for ways you can help them? Or worried about their safety? We're here to help.
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“I’ve found that the best way to support a friend is by showing them you’re always there to listen to them.”
Supporting a friend who's going through a difficult time can be hard and you might not notice how much it affects you. It's okay to feel upset, shocked, or angry from how they're acting.
It's really important to make sure you look after yourself, so that you stay well and you're still able to help your friend. You could:
“Though you want to help them it’s harder when you are not feeling well yourself.”
Sometimes it's hard to know if someone's struggling with their mental health, because everyone can act differently when they're going through a tough time.
Some of the ways people might act differently are:
Some of the physical changes you might notice in people are:
Finding the words to start talking to your friend about how they're feeling can be difficult. But really, there's no wrong way to begin and however you do it, they'll probably just appreciate you're trying. Here are some examples of conversation starters to get an idea:
If your friend doesn't want to talk, try not to pressure them. They will open up to you, or someone else they trust, when they're ready.
“What I didn’t realise at the time was how much of a difference it makes to just say I care and I am here for you.”
Knowing how to help a friend who's going through a difficult time can be hard. You might not know what to do, or worry that you're not doing enough, but you're most likely doing what you can. Here are some things you could try:
If your friend has opened up and it actually feels too much for you to handle, that's okay. You can thank them for talking to you, but explain how you're feeling. If you're able to, offer to help them find more support on our site. And don't forget to look after yourself too.
“Seeing someone that you care about going through something difficult can be very hard. But remember this won't last forever.”
If a friend tells you something and asks you to keep it a secret, it's normal to not want to break their trust, or worry they might fall out with you if you tell someone.
But if you don't feel comfortable with what they've told you, or you think they, or someone else could be in danger, you could:
Although it might feel like you're breaking their trust, it's important to tell a trusted adult about what your friend has said, to make sure you're both safe.
If your friend won't accept help from you or the people around them, it can be upsetting, annoying and can make you feel powerless. But try and remember there's only so much you can do, like:
“Whenever someone you care about is going through a tough time, it’s perfectly natural to feel like you want to find a solution or fix something.”
If you're worried that your friend is in any form of danger, or they might hurt themselves or someone else, it's important not to deal with it on your own:
Worrying about their safety can be exhausting, so it's good to look after yourself as well. See our page on looking after yourself for some ideas.
This information was published in March 2020. We will revise it in 2022.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.