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Friends and family

Find out how friends and family can help you stay mentally healthy, and get tips on managing changes like divorce or separation.

How friends and family can help

You might feel like they won't understand, but friends and family can surprise you. You would probably want to help people you love if they were struggling, so why wouldn't they feel the same about you?

Some of the ways they can help:

  • Spend time with you. Too much time on your own can make you feel worse. Just being around others is a simple way to feel more connected.
  • Talking things through. If you are stressed or feeling low, they can provide emotional support. Here's our guide on how to be a good listener.
  • Notice changes in your mood. People who know you well will probably recognise when you are not feeling your best.
  • Give practical support. Friends can do things like coming with you to a party you feel nervous about or helping you plan a route to get there.
  • Join in with CBT. Cognitive behavioural therapy sometimes introduces coping strategies. Your friends and family can help you to come up with strategy ideas and support you with therapy homework.

Advice from young people like you

Our Activists and other young people like you, share how their friends and family helped them with their mental health.

Talking to friends and family lifted so much weight off my chest and made me feel understood. It made me feel less ashamed about how I was feeling.
Talking to a family member meant that I was able to get the help I needed, and therapy for my OCD.
I feel like I have a support network that I can confide in now.
It made me feel less alone in what I was experiencing. They also helped me to rationalise my more negative or unrealistic thoughts.
Talking to my family and friends allowed me to tell to them the signs of when I’m having a panic attack, and what they could do to best help me.
I felt like I had someone to talk to and somewhere to vent. They helped me to get appointments and get referred to CAMHS for my treatment.
It helped massively. My mum said: ‘A problem shared, is a problem halved’, and that couldn’t be more true.
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How to open up to someone

Choosing to talk to someone about mental health problems is brave. And it's worth it, because it's the first step to feeling better. The best person might be someone who:

  • you trust
  • is easy to talk to
  • is kind
  • doesn't judge
  • is a good listener
  • you know well
  • has been through similar issues

Five tips for talking things through

  1. Pick a good time when neither of you are busy or distracted.
  2. Choose somewhere quiet where you won't be interrupted
  3. Explain how you are feeling and what's worrying you
  4. Ask for advice and support. Be clear about what they can do to help, like coming with you to the Doctor's, giving you space, or spending more time with you.
  5. Be clear about confidentiality. If you don't want them to share what you've told them, say so. 
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Tips from our Activists

Our Activists and other young people like you, share their tips on opening up to someone about your mental health.

"If you’re finding it difficult to say how you’re feeling, write it down or send it in a message. Talking to your family and friends about how you’re feeling can be tough, but it will be a huge weight off your shoulders once you do."

"You can start small by speaking to the person you are closest with first about how you’re feeling. This can then help you talk to other people if you need more support."

"Talking to people about your mental health is possibly the hardest thing to do, but also the best thing you’ll ever do. Try not to worry if they don't understand, the people who love you will do their best to learn more."

"If you’re struggling with talking to someone, then talk to a toy or a pet. It may feel strange at first, but sometimes voicing your thoughts can make them feel less scary."

Coping with family changes

Divorce, separation and other family changes can mean losing the home, school and friends you are used to, as well as seeing less of one or more family members.

Many children deal with these experiences, and there's support available to get you through it.

You might feel sad, guilty, angry or abandoned, or start having nightmares, needing more attention or 'acting up'.

Remember, it's not your fault and it doesn't affect how much your family loves you. It's OK to miss a parent who has left, and to ask for support from someone you trust, like a friend, teacher or counsellor.

If you're struggling with family changes, our Activists and other young people share their tips on what can help you cope during this difficult time:

  • "Tell a friend that you trust about how you are feeling. You are not alone, many people have gone through similar situations. Your friends are there to support you and cheer you up."
  • "Changes in the family is hard because it’s not the norm and you’re breaking a routine. My advice would be to not stress, try and find some sort of daily routine that you can focus on."
  • "It’s easy to feel like these changes are your fault it because of something you’ve done, but remember that isn’t the case. Family changes happen for so many reasons and it doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong."
  • "Don’t expect to be the glue that keeps the family together. Your feelings and thoughts surrounding your situation are valid. Remember to breathe and take each day as it comes."
  • "It’s normal to feel uncomfortable, scared or apprehensive about change. Speak to someone about how you feel and see if there’s a way of making the situation more comfortable for you."

You can also contact a helpline, like the ones below.

YoungMinds Crisis Messenger

Provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.

All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.

Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.

Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.

Text: YM to 85258

Opening times: 24/7

Childline

If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

Phone: 0800 1111

Opening times: 9am - midnight, 365 days a year

The Mix

Offers support to anyone under 25 about anything that’s troubling them.

Email support available via their online contact form.

Free 1-2-1 webchat service available.

Free short-term counselling service available.

Phone: 0808 808 4994

Opening times: 4pm - 11pm, seven days a week

Albert Kennedy Trust

Supports LGBTQ+ young people aged 16-25 in the UK who are facing or experiencing homelessness, or living in a hostile environment.

You can refer yourself online to arrange a face-to-face appointment with a member of staff in their Bristol, London, Manchester or Newcastle centres.

Offers free webchat service.

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