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How to support a friend - for young people

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Looking after yourself

Supporting a friend who's going through a difficult time can be hard. It's okay to feel upset, shocked, or angry from how they're acting.
It's really important to make sure you look after yourself, so that you stay well and you're still able to help your friend. You could:
1. Try not to take on too much
2. Set boundaries
3. Think about how it affects you
4. Look after your wellbeing
5. Talk about your feelings with someone you trust

Signs someone might be struggling

Sometimes it's hard to know if someone's struggling with their mental health, because everyone can act differently when they're going through a tough time. Some of the ways people might act differently are:
1. Seeming distant, or not themselves
2. Not meeting up, or responding to messages
3. Spending more time on their own
4. Showing lower self-esteem
5. Gaining or losing weight
6. Looking tired
7. Hurting themselves on purpose

How can I ask if they're okay?

Finding the words to start talking to your friend about how they're feeling can be difficult. But really, there's no wrong way to begin and however you do it, they'll probably just appreciate you're trying. Here are some examples of conversation starters to get an idea:
1. ‘Hey, I'm here for you if you want to talk.'
2. ‘You've not seemed like yourself lately. How are you?'
3. ‘I'm worried about you. Is there anything you want to talk about?'

Tips on supporting a friend

Knowing how to help a friend who's going through a difficult time can be hard. You might not know what to do, or worry that you're not doing enough, but you're most likely doing what you can.
1. Find a time to talk
2. Listen to them
3. Comfort them
4. Ask them what would help
5. Encourage them to find support
6. Do the things you both enjoy together
7. Keep in contact
8. Do something nice
9. Be patient

What if I've been asked to keep a secret?

If a friend tells you something and asks you to keep it a secret, it's normal to not want to break their trust, or worry they might fall out with you if you tell someone. If you don't feel comfortable with what they've told you, or you think they, or someone else could be in danger, you could:
1. Ask them to tell an adult they trust themselves
2. Tell them that you need to tell someone because you are worried about them

What if they won't let me help?

If your friend won't accept help from you or the people around them, it can be upsetting, annoying and can make you feel powerless. Try to:
1. Give them time - they might not be ready to open up to you right now and might find it easier when they've had more time
2. Let them know you're there for them if they ever want to talk, or just hang out
3. Send them information on finding support, to read when they're ready

What if I'm worried about their safety?

If you're worried that your friend is in any form of danger, it's important not to deal with it on your own:
1. Tell a trusted adult as soon as you can, like a parent or teacher. If you feel comfortable, you can tell your friend you're going to do this so they expect it. They may not like it, or ask you not to, but their safety is important
2. If it's an emergency, ask an adult to call 999 or to take them to the hospital

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