A Black teenage boy wearing a hearing aid speaking to a white non-binary teenager. They are walking on the street outside a shop. Both people are smiling.

Supporting a friend with their mental health

A young Black woman in a wheelchair talking to a young Black man on a bench in the park. The woman is laughing while the man explains something.

We know it can be difficult to know how to respond when someone opens up to you about their mental health. Here’s our advice on what you can say and how you can support your friend, while looking after your own mental health too.

When a friend opens up to you about how they are feeling, or tells you about something they are struggling with, you might find the conversation tough and it can feel difficult to know what to say. This reaction is normal. It shows you care for that person and want to help them - it’s part of our nature to want to support others and this is something you should be proud of.

However sometimes, when we are supporting our friends we can take on a lot of stress. You might feel like it’s your responsibility alone to help them. But there are ways you can help your friend, and find people who can support you too so that you don’t feel overwhelmed and under pressure.

How to respond when a friend opens up to you

If a friend has shared how they are feeling, it might be the first time they have spoken to someone about their mental health and they may struggle to put their thoughts into words. They might not go into lots of detail and say something like ‘I’m finding things hard right now’ or ‘actually, I’m not fine’. Or they might share things they are struggling with at home, school, university or work.

Two girls sit and chat on a fallen tree trunk in a park.

Listen carefully when someone opens up to you about how they are feeling. Try to let them share without interrupting or judging them, or making any assumptions. This can help make your friend feel more comfortable. You can show you are listening by nodding, or repeating what they say to show you have understood.

If they are finding it overwhelming, you can suggest they write it down in a text or on a piece of paper. That way, they can take their time in thinking about what they are trying to say, without worrying about how it might come across in conversation, or worrying about getting emotional in front of you.

Two young people sit on a sofa with the person on the left putting an arm around the other. They both are looking at each other while talking.

Reassure them

Often, when someone has opened up about how they are feeling, they might immediately feel worried that they’ve said the wrong thing or shared too much. The first way you could respond to them is to reassure them that they have done the right thing by speaking about it. You could say, ‘I’m really glad you told me this’, or ‘it might have felt difficult but it’s good that you spoke to me about it.


No matter what they are struggling with, their experiences are valid and it can be helpful to remind your friend of this. You could say something like ‘its okay to feel like that’ or, ‘what you’re going through sounds really tough’. Sometimes when you are struggling with your mental health, it can feel very lonely. By letting them know how they feel is valid, you are letting them know that they are not alone.

A girl with curly hair has her arm over her girlfriend's shoulder and talks to her while they sit in a park.

Sometimes all it can take to let your friend know that you are there for them is a hug, a cup of tea or just taking the time to sit with them. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture, you being there lets them know that you care.

After someone has shared with you how they are feeling, they might be worried that you won’t want to spend time with them. Simple gestures can remind them that you are still their friend, and you can still do the things you used to do together.


It’s understandable if after your friend has shared something with you, that you want to fix it or do what you can to help. But remember, it’s not all on you, and it is not your responsibility alone to help them. You have done so much by being someone your friend can open up to, and there are lots of other people and places you can go for further help. 

Play Video: #NotAllOnYou | Part 1 - Helping a friend #NotAllOnYou | Part 1 - Helping a friend

It's not all on you

It can be difficult to hear when a friend tells you they're going through a tough time. You might feel like it's your responsibility alone to help them. But there are ways you can help your friend and find people who can support you too, so that you don't feel overwhelmed and under pressure. Remember it's not all on you. It's okay to encourage your friend to speak to other friends, a teacher, school counsellors or the incredible helplines and online services listed below. You could also show them this website or our Instagram.  

Follow us on Instagram for tips
Two people walking and talking on the street.
We don’t have to be experiencing a major life change, traumatic event or grief to struggle with our mental health. Lots of different things can affect someone, like loneliness, stress or low self-worth. All reasons are valid.

Try not to compare or play “who has it worse?" Although it’s comforting to know someone else is going through something similar, right now they need space to talk about what’s going on with them.
Hannah, 23
  • It’s absolutely fine not to know what to say and to just sit with the person or just generally reassure them that you’re there
  • Just having somebody who hears and understands and accommodates for what I want in the moment – that’s so helpful.
  • Just knowing that someone cares and acknowledges our existence is really beneficial to us.
  • Sometimes you don’t really know what to say so it is just best if you listen and give them a shoulder to lean on.

What you can do to support a friend

When you are supporting someone, we know that sometimes it isn’t easy and you might feel out of your depth. Being honest and having a conversation with them about how they are feeling and what help they need can make a big difference. Remember, just by being there for your friend, you are doing something amazing.

A girl with curly hair sits with her hand on her chin thinking, while a boy sits beside her wearing a grey jacket.

You can ask your friend what help they would like from you. This lets your friend know that you are there for them and helps you to understand how you can best support them. You could offer to help them find helplines or websites for support, or see if they would like you to help them get an appointment with their GP.

If they want you to do anything you don’t feel comfortable doing, then you have every right to say what level of support you feel comfortable giving.

A group of young people at a school desk talking to each other with a world map on background.

You don’t need to have all the answers or be an expert in mental health. It’s okay if you don’t understand their situation or are unsure about what to say. By listening to how they are feeling, you are giving your friend the space to share and a chance to be heard. This is a great reminder that they do not have to struggle in silence, and that there are people who can listen and help.


If you have found a helpline or website helpful to you before, share this with your friend. Or, you could have a look online to see what you can find for your friend; we have a lot of advice and support on a variety of topics. Having a recommendation from you can help them to trust the advice. When you are sharing with a friend a website or helpline, explain how you think it might help them.

It can be scary to reach out for support, especially to someone you have not met before, so talking to your friend about how the helpline works can be really reassuring.

Two young people listening intently to their friend while sitting on a bench in a park.

If you are worried about your friend, encourage them to talk to an adult they trust like a teacher, school nurse, or youth worker. Your friend might be nervous to tell an adult and worried about what their reaction might be. If you’re able to, you could offer to go with them to talk to a trusted adult.

I found it extremely helpful for me and my partner to discuss boundaries and how best to help each other without compromising our own mental health.

Should I keep things secret?

Your friend might tell you things that are very personal, and very worrying. For example, they might tell you that someone is hurting them, abusing them, or that they are worried about their personal safety. They might tell you that they are harming themselves or thinking about ending their own life. They might try to make you promise not to tell anyone what they have told you. But remember, their safety is the most important thing.

If you are worried that your friend is in danger you should speak to a trusted adult like a teacher, family member or doctor. People need to know in order to give your friend the help and support they need. You can let your friend know that you need to talk to an adult and let them know why. Your friend might find this difficult and ask you not to, but they will eventually understand that you want to help them get through this.

Check in with your friend

After you’ve had a conversation with your friend, check in and see how they are doing a day or two later. You could say, ‘how are you feeling since our chat the other day?’ This can remind them that they are not alone and you are there to support them.

Your friend might not want to talk about it and that’s okay, it’s important to respect their boundaries and give them the time they need time to look after their mental health.

A Black teenage boy wearing a hearing aid bumping fists with a young Black man outside a front door.

Wil's story

"The best thing they did for me was to listen without judgement and show that they cared."

Find out how friends helped Wil when he was struggling.

Read Wil's story

Tips from our Activists

Our Activists share their tips on how you can support your friends:

  • Friendships are for the happy times and the difficult times. No one’s always singing and dancing and there are times where things are tougher and stressful. Friendship is just as important if not more important, in those times as much as the good and fun times.
  • It's okay that you can't feel like you can solve someone else's problems. You're already doing the best you can just by being there for them.
  • If anybody wanted to see a supportive friend they just need to look in the mirror. Most people care for others - there’s not some kind of superhero silhouette, anybody can be a supportive friend.
  • If one of my friends was struggling and I felt like I could help them, I'd message them to say something along the lines of ‘I've noticed you don't seem to be yourself is there anything I can help with or do you need to talk to anyone’. You're not talking from a professional perspective you're just letting them know that you're there.

Our Not All On You animation series

With thanks to Effervescent, the Arts Council England and the YoungMinds Activists for creating the Not All On You campaign. 

Play Video: #NotAllOnYou​ | Part 2 - Struggling together #NotAllOnYou​ | Part 2 - Struggling together
Play Video: #NotAllOnYou | Part 3 - Being there #NotAllOnYou | Part 3 - Being there
Play Video: #NotAllOnYou | Part 4 - Signs of Kindness #NotAllOnYou | Part 4 - Signs of Kindness
Play Video: #NotAllOnYou | Part 5 - Looking after yourself #NotAllOnYou | Part 5 - Looking after yourself
Play Video: #NotAllOnYou | Part 6 - Speaking up #NotAllOnYou | Part 6 - Speaking up
Play Video: #NotAllOnYou | Part 7 - Wrapped up in knots #NotAllOnYou | Part 7 - Wrapped up in knots
Play Video: #NotAllOnYou | Part 8 - Avoiding burnout #NotAllOnYou | Part 8 - Avoiding burnout

Looking after yourself

When you have supported a friend or listened to a difficult conversation, you might be feeling drained, anxious or stressed about what they have shared with you. Your feelings are valid too and it’s important that you take time out to look after your own mental health.

A girl sitting in the park wearing headphones. She is looking down at her phone and listening to music.

Self-care means looking after yourself. It can be doing a hobby like writing or drawing, meditating or switching off to watch your favourite TV show. There is nothing wrong with prioritising yourself, your wellbeing is just as important.

You can also create a self-soothe box which contains things that can make you feel relaxed.

How to make a self-soothe box
A father and son sitting at a table smiling with hot drinks

If you feel like you are struggling, reach out for help. Speak to someone you trust like a friend, parent, teacher or helpline. Chatting to someone whether that’s sending a text, having a phone call or meeting up with someone, can help you talk your feelings over. Have a look at our find help page for advice and suggestions on where to get help. You have done what you can to support your friend. Remember it isn’t all on you.

A young person smiling at their friend who is walking towards them.

Everyone has their own problems at times and if you are finding things tough, it might be better that someone else supports your friend. Try and be honest with your friend about how you are feeling. You can say something like ‘thank you for sharing this with me and letting me know how you are feeling. I am finding things difficult right now but here are some good places that can help you’.

You might feel guilty, or find it hard to say no because you want to help them. But saying no will not make you a ‘bad friend’.  By letting them know you are not in the right place to help them, you are looking after your own mental health and also making sure you friend can have the best support available for them. Remember, your mental health is just as important.

Two young people sitting in a library and reading a magazine together.

‘Setting boundaries’ is a way you can look after your mental health when you are supporting a friend. It’s about working out what you are able to do and what things you find more difficult, so you can put a ‘boundary’ in place to stop you doing those difficult things.  For example, you might find that talking to a friend late at night is something you find difficult, because you are tired and it stops you from sleeping well. Therefore, you may decide that one of your boundaries is that you don’t talk late at night. You can communicate this with a friend by saying,’  ‘I’m taking time for myself right now’ or ‘I am not in the best place right now, is it okay if we chat another time?’

It may feel hard to put yourself first, especially when you want to be there for a friend. But by putting boundaries in places it can help you to look after your wellbeing, and be in a better place to look after your friend too.

Taking time out to rest can help you unwind and give you time to process your thoughts. It can also stop you from taking on too much so that you don’t feel overwhelmed when trying to help your friends. Whether it is going for a walk or doing some deep breathing, taking time out can help you reflect on how you are feeling and look after your mental health.

  • Everyone deserves having themselves taken care of, everybody deserves to be heard.
  • Step back and do things that do calm you and let you take a step away from the situation you're dealing with.
  • You shouldn't feel guilty for prioritising yourself because you have an equal right to feel happy.
  • Something that I've been doing that helps is to do a bit of a mental check and just check how I'm doing. That's something that's really important for me.
  • I can't always be there to give support because sometimes you do have to think about the impact it is having on you and whether you can deal with that at that moment. You've got to put yourself first.
  • I think take a step back and just having time to think is one of the most invaluable things.

Helplines and services available

If you need help supporting a friend, or you're struggling to cope yourself, it's not all on you. Here are some organisations who can help you. 

  • 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:
  • Papyrus

    Offers confidential advice and support for young people struggling with suicidal thoughts, as well as family and friends; and information about how to make a safety plan.

    Its helpline service - HOPELINE247 - 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:
    24/7 every day of the year
  • Samaritans

    Whatever you're going through, you can contact the Samaritans for support. N.B. This is a listening service and does not offer advice or intervention.

    Opening times:

Whether you love the page or think something is missing, we appreciate your feedback. It all helps us to support more young people with their mental health.

Please be aware that this form isn’t a mental health support service. If you are in crisis right now and want to talk to someone urgently, find out who to contact on our urgent help page.

All fields marked with an asterisk (*) are required to submit this form.
Please copy and paste the page link here.
Please do not include personal details. This is not a mental health support service and you will not receive a reply.

Please note:

This form is not a mental health support service. We cannot reply to this. If you are at risk of immediate harm, call 999 and ask for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E. If you are worried about your mental health, call: Childline (for under 19s) on 0800 11 11; or Samaritans on 116 123.

At YoungMinds we take your privacy seriously. If you’d like to read more about how we keep the information we collect safe, take a look at our privacy policy.