If it’s not too serious, encourage self help strategies
Try using ‘I statements’, like ‘I’m worried…’ or ‘I’ve noticed…’
Start small – try going for a walk or visiting a friend first
If they are unwilling to seek help, encourage them to read stories by other young people or visit an online counselling service
Be honest if you are concerned about what you hear
Work out a plan for them to get further help if they need it. This could be talking to their parents or another trusted adult, going with them to a health service, GP or counsellor – you could offer to make an appointment for them
If they need immediate assistance call 000
Want to help a friend?
At first, it can seem difficult to know how to help a friend, peer or family member as you may not be sure if you are doing the right thing. A good place to start can be to ask your friend how they’re going, or if they’re okay.
What if your friend is not okay?
Your friend might just need someone to talk to – taking the time to listen to them and their concerns can often be a huge help.
Let them know they’re not alone
Let your friend know that you are there for help and support, and that they don’t need to go through this on your own. It is important that you don’t make promises you can’t keep, and that together you work out a plan for them to get further help if they need it.
Think of some practical strategies they can use
Encourage your friend to consider some self-help strategies such as eating healthy food, exercising, relaxation and meditation, writing down their feelings, getting enough sleep, avoiding alcohol and other drugs, hanging out with friends, going for a walk, or listening to music. You could try inviting them out somewhere, and encouraging other mutual friends to do so too.
Choose when to talk
Some people need ‘time’ and ‘space’ before they’re ready to accept help. If you want to bring up a sensitive issue with someone, try and choose a time when you are both relaxed. If they’re not ready to talk yet, giving them information about where to get help or providing fact sheets can be really useful.
Suggest they read stories about other young people There are several online forums where young people who have made it through difficult times can share their stores – see our own stories page here. This may help reduce their feelings of isolation and give them hope for the future.
Trust your gut
If your friend says they’re fine but you are still worried about changes in their mood, behaviour or thinking, support them in the same way you would have if they had said something concerning. Try to initiate a conversation, listen, and keep them active and socially involved.
Let someone know
If you are really concerned about your friend, it may be good to let their family or other trusted people know that you are concerned. Encourage your friend to seek help from a professional. If they won’t, let them know that you are worried about being the only one who knows what’s going on and that you would like to tell someone.
Know when to act
If you think your friend might be thinking about suicide, don’t be afraid to ask them directly. It won’t put the idea in their head or make them more likely attempt it – that’s a myth. If you are worried that your friend needs urgent medical help or might hurt themselves or somebody else, you need to tell someone immediately, even if they have asked you not to. This could be a family member, teacher, their GP or by calling 000.