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How To Help A Friend

If your friend needs immediate help click here

Getting help for a friend can take a bit of time and effort but it is worth it.

When you know a friend is going through a tough time, it can be hard to know what to do or say. You might have noticed they don’t quite seem themselves, or they’re not acting the way they normally do. Finding the words to start a conversation isn’t easy, especially when you don’t know what kind of help you can offer.

It can be as simple as checking in, letting them know that you care and that you’re there for them. Even if they don’t open up much at first, simply showing you care can give someone strength and hope. This also tells them that you’re someone they can talk to if they do decide to open up more later on.

Take a look at the information below and download our fact sheet for more information.

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What if your friend doesn’t want to get help?

Some people need time or space before they want to get help, so try to be patient with your friend. Although it can be hard, it’s really important not to judge them or get frustrated.

If you’re worried about your friend, it may be important to let their family or another trusted adult know. Lots of young people worry about ‘betraying’ their friends. It can feel difficult getting the right balance between your friends’ right to privacy and the need to make sure they’re safe. If you decide to tell someone else, try to let your friend know first that you’re planning on doing this and encourage them to be involved if possible.

If your friend is at risk of harming themselves or somebody else, you need to seek help straight away, even if they ask you not to. If they need urgent help, click here . You could also ask a trusted adult, such as a parent or teacher for help. They might not be happy about this initially but in the long run they will usually understand why you did it.

Some things you can say to encourage your friend to seek further help:
  • ‘Have you talked to anyone else about this? It’s great that you have talked to me, but it might be good to get advice and support from a health worker.’
  • ‘Getting help doesn’t always mean sitting on a couch with a psychologist or taking medication. Did you know that GPs can help with this sort of stuff? You can find one that bulk bills so you don’t have to pay. I can go along with you, if you like?’
  • ‘There are some great websites you can check out to get more information. Have you ever heard of headspace or ReachOut or youthbeyondblue?’
  • ‘Did you know that you can get free and confidential support online or over the phone from places like eheadspace, Kids Helpline and Lifeline? All of these services are anonymous and can help you figure out what’s going on for you and where to go for the right support.’
  • ‘I know you’re not feeling great now, but with the right support, you can get through this.’

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Looking after yourself

Supporting a friend through a tough time can be difficult, so it’s important that you take care of yourself, too. Following the Tips for a healthy headspace fact sheet may be a good way to look after your own wellbeing.

Try to remember that you’re their mate and not their counsellor. Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Set boundaries for yourself to make sure that you’re doing the best thing for yourself, your friend and the friendship. For example, you might decide that as soon as you start to feel out of control or overwhelmed, then that’s a good time to call in reinforcements. A good place to start is a trusted adult (e.g., family member, teacher or GP). You can also contact Kids Helpline.

If you are worried that your friend needs urgent medical help or might hurt themselves or somebody else, you need to tell somebody immediately, even if they have asked you not to. If they need urgent help, click here . You could also ask a trusted adult, such as a parent or teacher for help.

The headspace Clinical Reference Group oversee and approve clinical resources made available on this website.

Last reviewed 08 January 2018