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How to support a friend who isn’t coping

Do you have a friend who is overwhelmed and not coping with life right now? Knowing the best way to support a friend can be challenging, particularly if you’re not sure what is wrong. Here are some signs to look out for when you think your friend isn’t coping and some things you can do to help.


What are some signs your friend isn’t coping?

We all go through difficulties in life, but how do you know if your friend is struggling more than usual? They may recently have gone through a challenging period, like losing a job or finding out someone close to them is sick. Or maybe nothing has changed, but they don’t seem themselves?

Here are some warning signs that your friend may not be coping:

  • They seem irritable, down or tearful a lot of the time
  • They are drinking more than usual
  • They’re complaining that they’re not getting enough sleep
  • They miss a lot of their usual activities
  • They’re talking about how they feel worthless, empty or are often tired.


What are some ways you can support a friend?

If you’re pretty sure your friend isn’t coping, what can you do to help?


Tell them you’ve noticed and ask if they’re ok?

Before you talk to your friend, make sure you’re in a relaxed setting that is relatively private. Start the conversation by saying that you’ve noticed they haven’t been their usual selves and that you’re worried about them. Ask them if there’s anything on their mind. They may need an opportunity to vent and will tell you exactly how they’re feeling.

They might not feel ready to tell you what’s wrong, and that’s ok. The fact that you’ve told them you’re worried and thinking about them might help them open up to you in the future.


Listen to them without judgement

If your friend tells you how they’re feeling, it’s important to listen and not judge their feelings. Be a sounding board for as long as they need it. Take their feelings seriously and don’t minimise or try to find comparisons in your own life. Acknowledge that what they’re going through sounds tough, and show them you’ve been listening by repeating points back from time to time.


Help your friend by encouraging them to find a solution

After your friend has explained how they feel, ask them how they might have solved that problem in the past. You could work together to brainstorm some potential solutions to help them cope better. There might be something they haven’t thought of, which could help them move forward.


Check back in

It’s important that you check in regularly with your friend to see how they’re going. Ask them whether the solutions you workshopped are working or whether you need to sit down again to think of some other ideas. Let your friend know that you’re happy to support them whenever they need it.


What if you can’t help?

If nothing is working, it might be helpful for your friend to get some alternative help. Sometimes talking to an unbiased professional (e.g. GP, counsellor, psychologist) is exactly what your friend might need to move on from their problem.


CAREinMIND’s professional counsellors are available 24/7. The service is free to people living in north, western and central Melbourne. Call us on 1300 096 269.

Or access online counselling.

If it is an emergency, call 000

Access additional community support.


The CAREinMIND blog is delivered by On the Line. The views in each post do not necessarily reflect those of North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.