+ Save to your Spaces

5 practical ways you can be a supportive and caring friend

31 Aug 2018
It can be as simple as checking in, letting them know that you care and that you’re there for them.

If you're worried about a friend...

Simply checking in and letting them know that you care and that you’re there for them can make a huge difference when someone is going through a tough time.

If you're not sure how to go about this, check out these tips

Friends are often the first to notice any changes or signs that things might not be OK. This may include: not hanging out as much, avoiding things they usually like, talking less or acting a bit on edge or angry. You might also notice changes in how they look – like more tired, sad or messier (than usual).

Find a time that feels comfortable to check in with them to see how they’re going. Asking something as simple as ‘Is everything OK?’ or ‘You haven’t seemed yourself lately…everything alright?’ can be a good start. Giving them space to talk without forcing the conversation can help too. You might say something like ‘No pressure if you’d rather not talk about it, just letting you know I’m here if you need.’ The Check-in app has more helpful tips on how to start these conversations.

Be ready to listen to your friend about what’s going on for them. Try not to judge them or rush in to ‘fix’ things. Taking the time to listen lets them know you care and that they‘re important. If someone has been going through a tough time, it can be a big relief for them to talk about it.

Sometimes talking it out, and knowing you’ve got their back, might be all your friend really needs. Other times, they might be after more help or guidance. You can ask your friend, ‘Is there anything I can do?’ You don’t need to have all the answers. Try to encourage your friend to look after themselves by keeping active, eating well, getting good sleep and limiting their use of alcohol and other drugs. You can find more ideas on the Tips for a healthy headspace fact sheet. It’s great if you can encourage them to keep doing the things you usually do together. Helping your friend stay involved in their usual activities can help them stay connected to other positive things in their life. There are other people who can provide support, too, such as trusted adults, family members, a sports coach or Elder.

Sometimes, self-help strategies and/or talking to family and friends is not enough and that’s OK. There are a lot of professionals out there who can help. Suggest they make an appointment with their general practitioner (GP) or their nearest headspace centre if things don’t begin to improve. Many GPs provide free (bulk billed) appointments to young people and people with Health Care Cards - your friend can ask about this before they book in. You could offer to go with them if they need some extra support. If your friend would prefer to seek help online rather than face-to-face, eheadspace provides free online and phone support for young people. There are also stories from other young people your friend might like to read. This may help to reduce their feelings of being alone and give them hope for the future.