Helping a friend
It is sometimes easy to overlook how much difference we can make by offering a listening ear to someone close to us who is suffering.
It may seem difficult to approach someone if you can’t see their problems from the outside, or if you fear getting involved. But it is important not to ignore your concerns; by using the information below you can learn how to help without taking on personal responsibility for the problem.
People will express suffering in many different ways. The key is to go with your instincts, and if you do notice significant behavioural or emotional changes in a friend, try not to ignore this.
If someone has become noticeably disengaged, lethargic or un-motivated in their working or social environment, this could indicate a problem. If they are frequently ill, un-kempt or drinking excessively, this could also be a sign.
Furthermore, if you notice sudden mood changes, anxiety or irrational beliefs in a friend, this may be time to offer some help.
Take a few steps to offer support, and if you don’t feel comfortable, speak to a caring relative or senior member of staff to explain your concerns.
- Try talking to your friend and telling them you are concerned; this opens the opportunity to discuss their issues. Try to respect if they do not wish to talk about their problems.
- Be prepared that the situation may only require sympathetic listening. That can sometimes mean it’s best to avoid practical advice.
- Identify support networks from the services listed. This will also help you to avoid taking on responsibility for the problems yourself.
- If your friend refuses help and you are still concerned, speak to someone in a specialist support service. You do not need to mention their name when asking for advice; in this way you are not breaking their confidence.
There may be exceptional circumstances where there is a need to act without consent, e.g. if health has deteriorated to the extent of threatening a person’s personal safety or that of others.
- GPs and Local Health Service can offer practical support with the impacts of feeling troubled.
- University Counselling Service can help people to explore feelings for decision making and moving forward.
- The Samaritans are available to talk online or on the telephone 24 hours a day.
- Self help works very effectively for many. It’s important to be aware of unreliable information out there but try trusted sites Living Life to the Full and Beating the Blues.
- National Domestic Violence Helpline or Men's Advice Line can help with domestic violence issues.
- BEAT specialise in concerns about problems with eating.
- Citizens Advice can provide free, independent advice to anyone with legal, money or social problems.
- Relate are a service especially for those suffering with relationships.
- Swanswell provide a health and social care service including problems relating to drug and alcohol misuse.