Supporting a friend

If you are worried about a friend, it’s important to encourage them to seek support. Recommend they go and visit a local doctor/GP or if they’re not comfortable with speaking to someone face-to-face, there are online and email counselling services
Be careful not to force the issue or put too much pressure on them – it could put them off getting help. Remain supportive by offering help and suggestions when asked.

Four key things that can help you support your friend



Look icon
LOOK
out for the signs
Sometimes it can be hard to know if your friend is going through a rough patch or whether there might be something more serious going on like anxiety or depression. You might notice that they are not hanging out with their friends as much anymore or are always tired and feeling down. They might be snappier or perhaps look a mess. When you notice these changes, check in with your friend to see if they’re OK.
Listen icon
LISTEN
to your friend's experiences
Sitting and quietly listening is the next step. Don’t rush to offer advice. Let them know you are there for them and that you want to help where you can. If they don’t want to talk about it, respect that. Let them know you are worried and that you are happy to listen when they want to talk, or suggest other people. By listening and responding in a non-judgmental and reassuring manner, you are helping in a major way.
Talk icon
TALK
about what's going on
Knowing what to say can sometimes be difficult. You might not be sure how to start a conversation with them, or you might be worried about saying the wrong thing. You could say things like “I’ve noticed that you seem a bit down lately”, or perhaps, “You seem like you are really down, and not yourself, I really want to help you. Is there anything I can do?” Showing that you are willing to listen to what is going on can be really supportive for your friend. You don’t need to have all the answers.
Seek help icon
SEEK
help together
Encourage your friend to get some support. They might want to start by talking with their family about has been going on or they may prefer to talk with someone that they do not know, like a doctor or health professional. You could help them to find and arrange an appointment with a health professional; you might even offer to go with them to their first appointment to help them feel more relaxed about it. If they don’t feel comfortable with the first health professional, then you could help them find another.

The important part of helping your friend is to understand that you are there to offer support but it is up to your friend to decide how they are going to get it. If your friend does not want help, then be patient. Perhaps remind them of their options now and then, but try not to pressure them. If you are worried about their safety or that they are going to hurt themselves somehow, then you need to let someone else know.


Speak up if your friend is suicidal

If your friend is joking or talking about suicide, giving possessions away or saying goodbye, it is important to do something. You might tell their parents, partner, a trusted adult or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. Even if you promised not to tell, what’s most important is that your friend needs your support. You can talk with them another time about why you had to get them help.

Possible warning signs 

It is not always possible to know when someone is thinking about suicide but some of the possible warning signs include:

  • Talking or writing about death or about feeling trapped with no way out.
  • Feeling hopeless and withdrawing from family, friends and the community.
  • Increasing drug and alcohol use.
  • Giving away personal possessions, doing dangerous, life threatening things, having delusions or hallucinations.
  • Regularly self-harming.
  • Significant change in mood.

Helpful tips

  • Learn more about anxiety or depression and how you can support your friend.
  • Understand that sometimes people say things that are hurtful and strange, especially when they are not feeling well, so try not to take it personally. Make sure you have other friends or family taking care of you. Your feelings are important and need to be respected, too.
  • Take time out to ensure that you also have a chance to rest and recover, feeling fresh and more able to cope with the daily challenges.
  • Feel supported. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk about things with your own family and support people. You do not have to reveal private information about your friend, just talk about how you are feeling and why. 

The people and places that can help include:

  • Family
  • Trusted adult friends
  • School teachers or counsellors
  • University health team

If you, or someone you care about, is in crisis and you think immediate action is needed, call emergency services (triple zero – 000), contact your doctor or mental health crisis service, or go to your local hospital emergency department.

To speak to someone immediately contact the beyondblue Support Service.