Helping you get through tough times

What is friendship?

Friends are an important part of most people’s lives. Research has recently shown that having friends increases our chances of being happy.

colourful shoesA good friend might be someone who provides support when times are tough, or someone you can rely on to celebrate a special moment with you.

How much contact you have

You might see them everyday, once a year, or less. Or, you might hardly see them, but keep in touch by phone, email, or online.

Friends might come and go, they might make you laugh and cry, but most importantly of all, they love you for who you are.

It doesn’t matter what a person looks like or what kind of clothes they wear.

It’s what’s on the inside that counts and your friends should know that about you.

Likewise, having friends means you’ve a responsibility to be there for them too, even when the going gets tough.

What’s a good friend?

This is how a group of people responded when asked about qualities that make a good friend.

Someone who:

  • you can trust  won’t judge you
  • won’t deliberately hurt your feelings, but will show kindness and respect
  • will love you not because they feel they have to, but because they choose to
  • you can depend on, who is loyal and whose company you enjoy
  • will be there no matter what your situation is
  • is trustworthy and not afraid to tell you the truth, no matter how hard it is sometimes
  • can laugh when you laugh
  • will cry when you cry
  • makes you smile
  • accepts you for who you are, and lend you an ear when you need to whine or complain
  • will give you room to change

Being there

Friendships are among the most important relationships you’ll have in your life. Many of your favourite memories probably include times you’ve spent with friends.

But having friends can be hard work sometimes, when they get on your nerves or when they’re going through a tough time.

Not knowing what to do or say to help them can be frustrating and emotionally challenging. However, doing your best to make them feel better shows you care about being a good friend.

How can I be there?

Listen – try to understand the situation from your friend’s point of view. This way you’ll know the right sort of questions to ask and they’ll know you care about how they feel.

Advice – Don’t assume your friend wants advice because sometimes all they need is someone to listen. If you feel out of your depth, advise them to talk to a professional, and offer to be there to support them. Check out the face-to-face help section for more on what help is out there.

Get the facts – if your friend has been diagnosed with a medical condition or mental illness, learning about their condition is a good way of showing your support. It shows you care and you’re not going to run away because your friend’s situation has changed.

If there are support groups in your local area you could offer to accompany your friend and be there for them.

Protect them from themselves – if you think a friend is taking serious risks, like experimenting with drugs or alcohol, you may need to act without their consent to get them help. If you’re worried about your friend’s reaction, just remember it’s because you care about them and don’t want them to get hurt.

Depending on the situation, you may need to seek outside help, whether it’s a teacher, counsellor, a family member or another adult. Check out the helping a friend with a drink/drug problem section to find out more.

Show you care – if your friend is going through a tough time, write them a letter or a poem showing how special they are to you. Remind them that no matter how tough things get, you’ll be there for them because that’s what friendship is about.

Keep in touch – if you can’t physically be with your friend when they need you, send them an email, chat to them online or make a quick phone call to show you’re thinking about them.

Don’t forget yourself – supporting a friend through tough periods can put pressure on you, and it can help to talk to someone about it. This might be a teacher, counsellor, family member or another adult.
 Check out the services explained section for more details on who to contact for help, for you or your friend.

Know your limitations – there’s only so much you can do for a friend going through serious problems. You can’t fix everything, so if professional help is necessary, encourage your friend to seek it out.

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This article was last reviewed on 24 April 2017

What can I do now?