13 Ways to Support Your Friends If They Are Struggling

1. Listen and Don’t Panic

The first step to being okay is talking about how you feel, and your friend is going to need someone to listen when they’re ready to open up. You don’t need to try to fix their problems, just let them know that you care and that their feelings are important, heard and valid. Remember they need a calm atmosphere to talk to you, so don’t panic!

2. Don’t Judge Them or Their Issues

It’s important not to judge each other. The fear of judgement can be a big obstacle for someone trying to come forward about how they feel, meaning their feelings and worries could go unheard. Let them know that you support them and that you understand.

3. Be There for Each Other – You’re Not Alone

Make sure that your friend knows that they are not alone and they don’t have to deal with this on their own. It’s important that they understand that there will be people (such as yourself!) that will be there to support them every step of the way. Reassure them that everyone feels anxious at times but they can get through it and remind them that they’ve made it through every bad day so far, so they get past this one too.

4. Be Honest

If you’re worried about your friend, explain why to them in a straightforward way. Ask them if they’ve spoken to anyone else about how they’re feeling. If you think they need it, or if you’re unsure, you could suggest that they look for extra help and support.

5. Talk to a Trusted Adult

Ask your friend if there’s any adults they trust that they think they could talk to. If there is, encourage them to speak to them about how they are feeling. Suggest people like family members, teachers and youth workers, as these trusted adults might be able to offer more support than you can. Let your friend know that this won’t be as daunting as they may think and that you’re there to help them get the help they need.

6. Phone a Helpline

If your friend feels too uncomfortable talking to an adult that they know, or just for extra support, you could encourage them to phone a helpline. There’s lots of free helplines that are there to listen to your worries and allow you to speak about your difficult feelings. Some of these are 24 hours a day and some are aimed specifically at young people. You may want to suggest Samaritans, Childline, Breathing Space helpline or any others that you know of. Childline also offers online chat rooms with counsellors if you don’t want to talk over the phone, as well as message boards where you can get advice from other young people.

7. Help Your Friend Feel Better

Encourage your friend to do things that will make them feel better, and remind them of the importance of looking after themself. Make sure that they are still eating, sleeping and staying hydrated, and encourage other helpful things such as taking time away from social media and writing down how they feel. Do something with them like go for a walk, watch a film, or play a game to help take their mind off things.

8. Visit a Doctor or Health Worker

Sometimes your friend’s worries may be overwhelming them to a point that you can’t help them enough by yourself, and they should speak to a doctor to get professional support. Help your friend to make an appointment, remind them that the doctor can help and that it’s better to reach out for help now before things get worse.

9. Get Advice Online

The internet has lots of websites and youth forums designed to help young people going through difficult times, such as Young Minds, Young Scot, Childline and Papyrus. Be careful with what sites you’re using or suggesting to your friend and make sure they’re safe and reliable like the ones below.

10. Don’t Keep it a Secret

If you’re worried that your friend might hurt themselves or if they are talking about suicide you cannot keep it a secret. Encourage them to speak up about it themselves, but if they don’t, you have to find the balance between their privacy and keeping them safe. It can be difficult to do this when you know that they may be angry at first if you tell someone, but you need to remind yourself that they will also be safe and that they came to you because they wanted help and support.

11. Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

While it can be tempting to turn to alcohol or drugs when you’re feeling low, it’s important to remind your friend that in most cases these will just make the situation worse.

12. Distract Them

Spend time with your friend and help distract them from what’s upsetting them. But make sure you give them space if they need it, and make sure they know you’re still there to listen whenever they need it.

13. Know That It Gets Better

No matter how bad things get, they will get better. Make sure your friend knows that they can get through it and they have access to all the help they need to do that. There’s so many people that have made it through their difficulties and struggles, make sure your friend knows they’re strong enough to do it too.

We have also created an animated series using #13Ways, which you can watch on YouTube. Check out the introduction video below.

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