It's important to stay connected to friends in times of crisis, Photo: Lifeline Australia

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Often when your friend is in crisis, it’s hard to know what to say or do. And sometimes it seems easier just to let them be. But according to experts staying away or avoiding a friend or family member during a crisis is one of the worst things you can do. 

“It’s about fear and not feeling able to help” says Chris Wagner, National Media Manager for Lifeline Australia. 

“So we have a task to up-skill the community, like we do with basic first aid.” 

But how do we support friends or family members when they are going through a rough patch? Here are some tips from Lifeline Australia and beyondblue on how to help friend in crisis: 

Be receptive 

It’s important to let your friend know you are there for them. Lifeline Australia advise: 

  • Take the lead, show initiative and ask “Are you OK?”
  • Put the invitation out there: “I’ve got time to talk”
  • Spend time with the person to let them know you care and help you understand what they’re going through.
Encourage your friend to seek help

You may need to encourage someone you know to seek help

Initiate conversation 

 Sometimes initiating the conversation can be the hardest part.  beyondblue give the following advice: “It’s important to choose a time when you are both free to talk and a place where you are both comfortable. You might want to start by saying something like “I’ve noticed you seem a bit down lately…” and take it from there.” 

Be a good listener 

Listening is the key to being a supportive friend. beyondblue suggests: “Once the conversation starts, your job is to listen. Your friend may not want advice, but just want to talk things through. Listen as much as you can, and try and work out how they are feeling. You can help your friend by maintaining eye contact, sitting in a relaxed position and asking open-ended questions that can’t be answered with just ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Save your suggestions or advice for later but let him or her know you are there for them.” 

 Be encouraging 

According to Lifeline Australia it’s important to encourage your friend to look after themselves. This includes maintaining regular exercise, eating a nutritious diet and getting regular sleep. It also might mean encouraging the person to seek professional help from their family doctor, a support service or counsellor, or a mental health worker. 

Take your friend seriously 

Although you may have the best intentions, according to Lifeline Australia it’s best to avoid the following cheer-up tactics: 

  • Pressuring your friend to “snap out of it’, “get their act together” or “cheer-up”
  • Stay away or avoid them
  • Tell them they just need to “stay busy” or “get out more”
  • Suggest alcohol or drugs
  • Assume the problem will just go away

 Look after yourself 

According to beyondblue it’s also important to take care of yourself during this time: “Sometimes when you’re worried about someone, it feels like you’re all alone. Try to take time out to relax and enjoy things like sport, friends, music or going for a walk to keep yourself feeling okay. You may also want to speak to someone you trust, such as a family member, friend or counsellor.” 

Seek help together 

If you think someone may be experiencing depression or an anxiety disorder, it’s important to encourage them to seek help from a counsellor or doctor. According to beyondblue: “The person may not have the energy to get the help they need themselves –  which is where you come in. You might offer to go with them if they do decide to speak to someone about how they are feeling.” 

If you or someone you know needs emotional support call Lifeline: 13 11 14

Or for more information visit their website or that of beyondblue.

*Lifeline Australia, RUOK? A conversation can change a life 

**youthbeyondblue Fact Sheet 6 – Helping a friend with depression or anxiety