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To Sam

helping my friends affects me

about a year or two a go I felt extremely depressed and wracked with guilt about certain events that took place in my life. Talking about depression and suicide is a really sensitive subject for me. I've started turning my life around and feeling much better in myself, mainly by avoiding the topic of depression, but it is still a very touchy subject for me. Now all my friends are going through similar feelings to what I had and for some reason I am always the person they go to to ask for help. The problem is, as soon as I hear the word depression or something like that, my brain starts to freak out if that makes sense and I sort of just freeze. Hearing about my friends being depressed really affects me as I so badly want to help them but if I start thinking about depression all the feelings from my past come back and I don't know what to do. What do you recommend?

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Sam

Hi there,

Depression and suicidal feelings can be a hard thing to support someone with. It’s good to help friends and family who have mental health problems, but you need to take care of yourself first. If you don’t make sure you are okay, you won’t be able to keep helping the people around you.

It’s good to remind yourself that there's a limit to what a friend can do. Mental health can be complicated and difficult to cope with – usually someone needs professional help to get better. There are things that a therapist can do which a friend can’t. Just as important though is that there are unique things that a friend does. Being there to do normal, everyday things can be one way of helping a friend who's going through a tough time without it having a big impact on you. Being someone who won’t judge them and who's able to distract from their thoughts and feelings for a while can make a huge difference.

Recognising that you're not able to help can be a difficult thing to admit. If you’re feeling low or vulnerable then it might not be the best time to help someone else. If you’re not able to help at the moment, that’s okay - it’s important to do what’s right for you and you may be able to help in the future when you’re feeling stronger.

You could tell your friend that you care about them and you’re glad they’ve told you how they’re feeling. Let them know that you want to help but you’re not able to support them at the moment. Suggest that they speak to a trusted adult like a parent, carer, teacher or their doctor and tell them about the support they can get from Childline.

You might feel like you need to make things better for them but you’re not responsible for how they’re feeling and sometimes your friend might need help from people who are older and more qualified to help. You could offer to be there when they talk to someone else or to tell someone else on their behalf if they’re not able to get help for themselves. They might need to see their doctor or call NHS 111 for advice and remember that if your friend needs immediate help it’s always okay to call 999 in an emergency.

Looking after yourself is always important when you’re helping someone else. Keep doing all the things that have helped you in the past like relaxation, writing a journal, eating healthily and talking about how you’re feeling. Childline counsellors are here if you want to talk about helping someone else and about feeling anxious about your own mental health.

Thank you for your letter.

Take care,

Sam

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