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My friend struggles with mental health

It can be hard to see a friend struggle with mental illness, and even harder to know how to help. Don’t worry, neither of you are alone.

Woman comforting sad teen on train asking, 'Are you ok?'

About mental health disorders

The more you understand about mental illness, the easier it might be to help.

  • We can all feel stress, sadness and anxiety...
  • ...but when someone has a mental illness, these feelings can stick around for a long time and can affect everything in their life
  • If a friend is struggling with a mental illness, it's important to remember that it's not as easy as 'move on' or 'get over it'
  • Working through a mental health condition takes time

Fear of being judged or treated differently can stop a lot of people from talking about it – even with a friend they trust.

How to know if your friend is struggling

Keep an eye out for some of these signs:

Having low energy or motivation
More emotional than usual – anger, worry, sadness, crying
Avoiding friends, family and social situations
Not doing the things they usually enjoy
Feeling hopeless about the future
Not acting like themselves – starting fights, stealing, acting out

How you can help

Simply wanting to be there for your friend makes you a pretty great friend!

And with some key tips you'll be ready to help where you can.

Don't be afraid to have 'the conversation' - Choose a quiet place and a time where you're both relaxed. Try and ask, "Is there anything you wanted to talk about? You haven't really seemed yourself lately."

Be ready to listen and respond - If your friend wants to talk about things, show that you are listening and that you care (even if you're not sure how to help just yet).

If they don't want to talk about it - That's ok. Be patient and respectful of this. Let them know that you are there for them when they feel comfortable to talk about it.

Remember the power of 'just being there' for someone - It's tempting to want to find solutions and fix things for your friends. But if your friend isn't ready for help, just knowing that you are there is a powerful thing.

If they tell you they're NOT feeling ok - Encourage them to reach out for help. Offer to get help together if they are struggling to open up. Try talking with a parent, teacher, or Kids Helpline.

Be sure to take their feelings seriously - If they talk about suicide or feeling hopeless, it's important to get help by talking with an adult you trust or a counsellor.

Take care of your own feelings too

Helping a friend can be an emotional time. It's important to make sure you're ok too. By taking care of yourself, you're better able to take care of your friends.

Here are some ways you can get support:

Talk about how you're feeling

Get enough sleep

Take a break to relax

Be active or exercise regularly

Do the things you enjoy

Ask for help if you need it

It can feel stressful wanting to help your friend but not knowing how. Remember, you're not alone. We're here to help.

Help is always around!

If someone you care about is struggling with a mental health condition and you’re not sure how to help out – we’re here.

Kids Helpline is open 24/7! You can call us for free, start a WebChat or send us an email.

This content was last reviewed 28/02/2019

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