Want to help a friend?
At first, it can seem difficult to get help for a friend or
family member as you may not be sure if you are doing the right
If you have a friend you are concerned about or who wants help
and assistance for mental health or alcohol and other drug issues,
it is important to know that there are many different types of help
available, and they do work.
Getting help can take a bit of time and effort but it is worth
it. Good help will assist your friend to deal with their problems
and get back to their normal life. It's important to keep in mind
that your friend may need to try more than one type of help as
everyone is different and what works for one person may not work
Things you might be worried about
You might be worried about changes in your friend's mood,
behaviour or thinking. For example, they might have usually been
happy, but are now moody and withdrawn. They might sleep all day
but find it hard to sleep at night. They might be hearing or seeing
things that aren't there, or be crying all the time and seem really
You might also be worried about your friend's actions, like
their use of alcohol or drugs or their sexual behaviour.
Where to start - top 10 tips
If you feel comfortable talking to your friend about your
concern, this is a good place to start. Let them know what is
worrying you. If you ask a friend if they're okay and they say
"actually I'm not okay", don't panic. The fact that your friend is
acknowledging that something is wrong is a really important first
Here's some tips to help you support your friend going through a
- Your friend might just need someone to talk to - take the time
to listen. Try not to judge and avoid telling them what to do. For
tips on things to say or not say to your friend check out
our "If your friend is not ok…" factsheet.
- Don't make promises you can't keep but let your friend know
that they don't need to go through this on their own and that you
are here for help and support. Work out a plan for them to get
further help if they need it. Don't avoid your friend after they
tell you they are not okay. Keep in touch with them and support
them if you can, but remember to look after yourself and your needs
as well, it can also be very stressful for you when a friend is
going through a tough time.
- There are a number of ways to improve your mood and get back on
track, encourage your friend 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, listening to
music etc. Check out our Tips for a healthy
headspace for more ideas
- Your friend might prefer to talk to someone outside of their
friends and family, suggest they make an appointment with their
local doctor (GP) or nearest headspace centre.
- If there isn't a headspace centre nearby or your friend isn't
ready to visit a centre or their local GP, they may however feel
safer seeking help online. eheadspace.org.au provides online and
telephone support and information.
- Some people need 'time' and 'space' before they're ready to
accept help so just giving them information about where to get help
or giving them factsheets to read through can be useful.
- Suggest they read
stories about other young people who have made it through
difficult times; it may help reduce their feelings of isolation and
give them hope for the future.
- 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 if they have said they are not okay
- try to initiate a conversation, listen, and keep them active and
- If you are really concerned about your friend, it may be good
to let their family or other trusted adults know that you are
concerned. This can be a hard decision to make but you have strike
the right balance between your friend's right to privacy and the
need to make sure they are safe. Encourage your friend to seek help
from a professional. If they won't, let them know that you are
uncomfortable being the only one who knows what's going on and that
you need to tell someone.
- 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.
Getting information and finding out what services are
There are a lot of services that can help you and your friend.
If you are unsure where to go you might want to:
- Contact your local
- Check out the getting
- Ask teachers, school counselors, family members, or family
- See your local GP
- Contact your local council and ask what youth services are in
your local area
The next step is to contact the service to make an appointment.
Often it's worth asking if they offer a "drop in" service so you
don't need to make an appointment. Remember you can ring
anonymously and still get the information.
Contacting a service
When you contact a service the first person you talk to will
probably be a receptionist, 'intake' or 'duty worker' who will ask
a range of questions to find out more about your friends'
situation. You can also ask as many questions as you want to find
out what kind of help they can offer.
This is a good time to get your friend to do some of the
talking. You might sit with them as they arrange a time, and you
might even go with them to their first appointment if they want you
to, but it is important that it is their decision to get help.
Sometimes you might have to try more than one service to get the
right sort of support. Encourage your friend to hang in there, and
keep trying. Remind them that help is available.
Log on to eheadspace.org.au for online support and
For immediate support call 000 or 24 hour crisis telephone lines
such as Lifeline www.lifeline.org.au on 13 11
14 or Kids Helpline www.kidshelpline.com.au
on 1800 55 1800.