What to do if you’re worried about a friend

The question is, what can you do?

Two friends hugging

When concerned about a friend’s well-being, you may wonder if you should get involved at all or whether you confronting them will make things worse. How do you go about the subject of mental or emotional health with a friend? Will they be angry?

Not knowing what to do when you’re worried about someone can be very stressful and upsetting. Every situation is different and while the action you take will depend on your relationship with the person and the reason for your concern, there are some practical guidelines you can follow. Researching the situation can also help. The fact you are here already shows you are looking for the right information. Having the resources available to show your friend can often be very helpful – there are many misconceptions about mental health which can put people off seeking the support they need. You can find more information on our Facts and Figures page.

Remember how much it can help a person to know that someone cares for them. Without support and compassion, mental illness can be very lonely.

Should I talk to them?

Yes. If you are worried about a friend’s mental health, talking to them is the best thing you can do. They might have wanted to talk to you, they just didn’t know how.

One of the most difficult parts of having a mental illness, is not knowing how to talk about it. Whether a person is diagnosed or not, they might not know how to ask for help or talk about what they are going through. While you may not understand how they are feeling inside, you can help by asking them questions and inviting them to talk. Even if they are not ready, knowing you are there to listen can be a very special thing.

What should I say?

What if talking makes the situation worse? What if they think you’re being patronising? There are many ‘what-ifs’ that may be going through your head when you are worried about a friend. You can spend time going through these thoughts, tormenting yourself of what might happen or you can take control and just do it for your friend. It doesn’t really matter how a person reacts at first, the simple act of showing care and support will remind them that they are not alone.

If you’re not sure how to start a conversation about your concerns, you can follow the below tips:

Check your mindset. Go into the conversation with an open mind and without judgement.

Be honest. Take control of the situation instead of avoiding the opportunity. Ask how they are, say you’ve noticed they’ve been acting differently and want to help.

Listen. As much as you might want to, don’t offer advice straight away. Even if you think you have the answers or have experience with mental illness, save that for later. The first step is to listen to what they have to say.

Focus on small things. Focus on the little steps they are taking – remind them how talking about it is a good thing and show them a clear path ahead. Try to resist taking too much control, but show them that you’re there to support the steps they take.

Don’t forget about them. Even if your friend gets the help they need, they may still need you. You don’t have to do anything massive, simply giving them a text or meeting for a coffee can help. Equally, don’t let their problem take over the relationship. Be there for them and remember they are still your friend.

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Written by Ellen Lees
Head of Content.
Written by Ellen Lees
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