Medium-shot-of-a-group-of-young-people-chatting-and-laughing-on-a-park-bench

A guide for young people Friends

Friends can be there for you and be an important source of mental health support. But sometimes, you might find that you aren’t getting along, or you no longer feel comfortable in your friendship group. If you are feeling like this, our page has tips and advice that can help.

How friends can help

Friends can help you with your mental health in lots of different ways. They might check in with how you are feeling, or simply make you laugh with the best TikToks. They might also help you by:

  • Talking things through

    If you are finding things difficult, talking things through with a friend can help you understand how you are feeling and what support you might need. It might even be that they just sit and listen. A friend can be there for you by listening to how you are feeling and keep you company to remind you that you are not alone.

  • Give practical support

    For example, if you are nervous about going to a party, friends can help you by going to the party with you, messaging you to see how you are getting on or helping you find a quiet space.

  • Taking your mind off things

    They can take your mind off what might be making you feel low or stressed.

  • Notice changes in your mood

    Friends that know you well might recognise if you are struggling or not feeling your best and can check-in to see if you need support.

When friends help and support you, they can boost your self-esteem, make you feel good, and remind you that you are loved for who you are. They can help you to look after your mental health.

Advice from young people like you

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

  • My friends constantly made sure that however different I felt, they would treat me the same, which they did, mental illness or not.
  • Having friends just listening is really helpful a lot of the time, just having someone to talk about things with.
  • They’ve tried to cheer me up by sending me links to funny memes or sometimes we just sit and have coffee together - they don’t always need to say anything, sometimes it’s just good to have some company.
  • My friends help me by being mindful of social anxiety, especially at parties, and checking in with me beforehand.
  • 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.
  • I feel like I have a support network that I can confide in now.
A-girl-with-her-arm-around-her-sister-as-they-sit-on-a-blue-sofa

If you're finding it tough to open up to a friend

Talking to a friend about your mental health is one of the first steps on the road to feeling better. But sometimes, this can feel quite scary. You might not know what to say, or you might be nervous about sharing how you are feeling. That’s okay! Here are some tips that can help:

  • Pick a good time when you won’t get interrupted and find a quiet space to chat.
  • Explain how you are feeling.
  • Be clear about what you want shared. You may not want other friends to know yet, and that’s okay. Let your friend know that you are not ready to share with others. However, if your friend is worried that you aren’t safe, they will need to tell a trusted adult.

Remember: Good friends will want to be there for you so you don’t have to struggle alone. For more tips, have a look at our page on reaching out for help.

Reaching out for help

If you are struggling with a friendship

Throughout our lives, we might struggle with our friendships. We might argue with friends, no longer speak to friends we were once close to, or we might lose some friendships. You might struggle with a friend because:

  • one of you moves away, making it difficult to keep in touch
  • your friend makes new friends that you do not feel comfortable around
  • you might be left out of the friendship group
  • you meet new friends and aren’t able to spend as much time with your old friend as you used to
  • one of you might be struggling with your mental health, meaning that you/your friend might be withdrawn and not keeping in touch as much
  • your friend might not understand how you are feeling or what you are going through – this can make it difficult to chat to your friends, or make it feel like they aren’t taking your feelings seriously
  • you are making the effort to see your friend and stay in touch but they aren’t making the effort back
  • they often ask you for advice and it feels like a lot of responsibility that you are struggling to manage

We might have arguments with friends, and sometimes fall out, but often you can get through those difficult moments together. You or your friend may not have realised how each other were feeling or understood what either of you were going through.

By talking things through and explaining how you both feel, you can both learn to better understand how you can support each other. Overcoming these tough times together can sometimes help make your friendship stronger.

Coping with a loss of a friendship

In some situations, however, your friendship might come to an end. You may have tried to work through an argument and it hasn’t worked out, or they may have not been very nice to you.

Friendships can come to a natural end too. There might not be a specific reason, but you might no longer keep in touch. Sometimes people grow apart and that’s okay.

When friendships come to an end, it can be really tough. Friends are there through the highs and lows – they can be like our chosen family, meaning that it can feel tough to move on - but things can get better over time.

If someone close to you passes away, it can be extremely difficult. Jacob shares how he coped with the death of his best friend and Nia shares advice on how she coped with losing a friendship.

If you have lost a friend, our page has advice if you’re finding it hard to cope.

Grief and loss
medium shot of two boys sitting on a bench in front of the lake comforting each other one boy puts his hand on the shoulder of his friend
When I lost my best friend to suicide at 16 years old, I had panic attacks and walked out of lessons at college, flooded in oceans of guilt and upset.

I went from being a very hard-working media student to not caring. I became very distant and didn’t put much effort into my work.

I reached out to my GP who was very useful in supporting me. I found a counsellor, which has been a lifesaver for me in getting me back on my feet and learning how to manage my grief while keeping the memories of my friend alive.
Jacob's story: Coping with the death of my best friend
close-up-of-a-young-woman-lost-in-thought-in-a-room
Over the years of hurting and healing, I have unfortunately learnt that there is no magic cure for dealing with the loss of a friendship. You can’t ambush a heart into healing or speeding up the process, but the days get less painful and in my experience, you will come through the other side.

Take time for yourself. Don’t try and replace them. Learn what it was that you valued in that friendship. Figure out what it is that you feel like you are missing without them. This will help you to look for it in future.

Cherish those friends who are currently around you, hold onto the memories you’ve made and trust the process.
Nia's story: How to cope with the loss of a friendship

Tips and advice from our Activists

Our Activists share their tips on what to do if you're struggling with a friendship.

  • Stop, take time and reflect on what is making this friendship seem unhealthy.
    Jacob
  • Support can come in many different ways. A way that’s often overlooked is supporting yourself. Take yourself out of the situation, take a step back and learn to be your own friend for a while.
  • Always talk to those closest to you about how you feel. If you are having problems with a particular group or individual, address it either with them or speak to a trusted adult.
  • Join some extra-curricular clubs or activities you’re interested in outside of school to find friends who have similar interests to you and might make more of an effort to understand.
  • Try to make friends with those who seem more like acquaintances, as they might become friends.
  • If you are on your own, new friendships may be just around the corner.

How do I know if a friendship is unhealthy?

two-young-man-wearing-black-jacket-with-headphones-on-his-neck-and-hands-on-the-pockets-of-his-trousers-talking-while-walking-with-another-boy-wearin-grey-hoodie-on-a-street

While occasional arguments or disagreements can be normal between friends, there are times when friendships can become unhealthy and affect you in a negative way. This can be things like:

  • your friends pressuring you to do something you feel uncomfortable with, like taking drugs or drinking alcohol
  • when jokes or banter become hurtful and disrespectful
  • you are constantly arguing and falling out
  • they continue to ask you for help when you have told them you are unable to
  • they make you feel guilty
  • they make you feel uncomfortable when spending time with different friends and make you feel like you have to choose between them
  • they bully you
  • the friendship feels ‘one-sided’, where they ask a lot of you but you don’t feel like they support you in return
  • they isolate you from a group on purpose, making you feel lonely

Sometimes, friends might do these things unintentionally or without realising, or they might continue to do them after you’ve asked them to stop. Ultimately, it’s about how you feel about the friendship.

If you're finding a friendship difficult

If you’re finding a friendship difficult, you might want to talk to that friend about how they have been treating you. You might be nervous about talking to them, or worried about how they will react. Childline have some tips on how you can talk to your friend and be assertive to explain how you feel.

If your friend is constantly asking you for help but you’re not sure what to say, it can make you feel stressed or anxious. Our page on how to support a friend with their mental health has tips on how you can set boundaries and look after your mental health, which you may find helpful.

When a friendship becomes unhealthy, it can impact other areas of your life and how you think and feel. It can make you feel down or anxious, or might lower your self-esteem and how you feel around other people. If you feel like this, it’s important that you are able to get help. Even when you disagree with friends, you still deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

Supporting a friend with their mental health

If you're in an uncomfortable situation

When we are with friends, there might be times where we don’t want to take part in an activity that makes us feel uncomfortable. If you are in that situation, it’s important to say how you feel and that you don’t want to take part. If your friends keep trying to get you to take part in something you don’t want to do like drinking alcohol speak to a trusted adult about how you are feeling. You need to make sure that you feel safe, so if you do feel at risk, reach out to professional services.

You may worry that by not doing something that your friends are doing, you will be left out, or it will damage your friendship. But a good friend shouldn’t pressure you to do anything you’re not comfortable with. You deserve to have friends that accept your decisions and make you feel as though your feelings are valid.

Get help now

If you are struggling with a friend and not sure who to talk to, there are people who will help you get through this. Here are some organisations that can provide you with support. 

  • YoungMinds Textline

    Text YM to 85258

    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.

    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.

    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.

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

    Offers confidential advice and support for young people struggling with suicidal thoughts.

    Its helpline service - HOPELINEUK - is available to anybody under the age of 35 experiencing suicidal thoughts, or anybody concerned that a young person could be thinking of suicide.

    Opening times:
    9am – midnight, 365 days a year
  • Samaritans

    Whatever you're going through, you can contact the Samaritans for support.

    Opening times:
    24/7