Helping a friend in a crisis

We all go through difficult times now and then. It’s probably one of the worst things about being human. On the other hand, some of the best moments can come right after the shitty ones and that’s cause our friends are there for us in both those scenarios. But knowing how to go about helping a friend in a crisis can be confusing. We’re here to talk you through how to do it.

A group of friends is having fun. They are all helping a friend. This is a wide-angle image.


T/W This article contains discussion about bereavement. 

When someone close to them has died

Losing a family member or someone you love marks a tough time in your life, no matter how you deal with it. Of course we all handle grief in different ways, but talking it over with people we trust is an option many choose as they come to terms with what’s happened.

Your role: You can’t force a mate to start a conversation about the loss of someone close to them, but you can let them know you’re willing to listen – if and when they feel ready. You may find they don’t act any differently with you, and that’s fine. All it means is that you help them escape their situation for a while. Sometimes helping a friend just boils down to being yourself and making your friend feel comfortable. As long as they’re aware that you’re happy to help in any shape or form, you’ve done your part.

For more information on dealing with death and bereavement, see this article.

Supporting a friend if their parents have divorced

Chances are you’re going to know someone who has to deal with their parents’ separation or divorce. It may happen to lots of people (approximately 42% of families), but when it happens in your household it’s very easy to feel as if nobody else will understand what you’re going through. The trouble with bottling things up is that it can affect the way you behave around others. This, in turn, may cause a domino effect and put a strain on friendships.

Your role: Don’t force your mate to open up about what’s going on with their family. If they want to talk, they’ll do so in their own time. If they’re going through difficult times back home, however, they may want to spend more time outside. So create some opportunities to get out and about and see how they respond.

For support on how to deal with divorce, have a read of this article.

Helping a friend who has problems with drink or drugs

People turn to drugs for all sorts of different reasons. Some know the risks when they do so, others might just be chasing a high. Most aim to have a good time, but drink and drugs can create problems for those who simply feel the need to blot out troubling issues in their lives.

Your role: If you feel your mate’s relationship with drink or drugs could become a health issue or lead to a mental illness, you owe it to yourself (and to them) to find out the facts first. Although the conversation is never going to be easy, having a good grasp of the data can help you feel prepared. You can also call Drinkline (tel: 0800 917 8282) or Talk to Frank to get advice from a trusted adult about any questions you may have. In some ways it’ll serve as a trial run when you start the conversation with your friend, and saves any overreactions.

How to go about talking to them

Choose a calm, quiet moment when they’re not completely gone, and simply express your concern. You need to be able to back yourself up with examples of any change in their behaviour as a result of drink or drugs, but try not to make them feel embarrassed or even angry. Just stress that you’re ready to help them overcome any problems that have led to this situation. They might not respond as you hope straight away, but leave them with contacts such as a support group or any of the helplines mentioned above. All you can do is give them every option to regain control. This includes your support as well as access to any health services. At the very least, they’ll register your concern and understand they can turn to you when the time feels right to get back on track.

The Mix has tons of resources on drink and drugs, take a look here to find out more.

Helping a friend after a break up

When mates find love, it’s likely you’ll see less of them than usual. Let’s face it, you’d do the same in their shoes – largely because you know you can count on a good friend to be there for you if things don’t work out. So long as you don’t take them for granted, what can go wrong? Well, it’s a two-way street so you better get ready with some ice-cream and Dirty Dancing.

Your role: If a mate finds themself on the wrong end of a relationship, and falls upon your shoulder weeping, it’s your job to offer support. This could mean reassurance, or just a listening ear as they rant multiple times. Avoid being too nasty to their ex though, because it could be used against you should the couple get back together again.

Be aware that your mate might not want to talk about it, and that’s fine. Sometimes, people who’ve come out of a relationship just want to get out of the house, which is where you can come in. If, at any point, you’re unsure what they want from you, just ask.

Similarly, if helping your friend starts to feel more like a daily shrink session, set clear boundaries. If you don’t, it won’t be too long before resentment kicks in. Thing is, if you’re true friends, they’ll be able to handle the truth.

Next Steps

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 24-Oct-2021