Friends in need
We all have our ups and downs, but there are lots of ways you can help when a mate is going through a crisis.
They've lost someone close to them
Losing someone you love marks a significant moment in your life, no matter how you deal with it. Of course we all handle grief in different ways, but talking it over with people we trust is an option many choose as they come to terms with what's happened.
Your role: You can't force a mate to open up about the loss of someone close to them, but you can let them know you're willing to listen - if and when they feel ready. You may find they don't act any differently with you, and that's fine if they view you as a chance to get away from what can be an intense family atmosphere. All that matters is that s/he is aware that you're happy to help in any shape or form. Even if that just means being yourself.
Their parents have divorced
Chances are you're going to know someone who has to deal with their parents' separation or divorce. It may be a common occurrence across the country, but when it happens in your household it's very easy to feel as if nobody else will understand what you're going through. The trouble with bottling things up is that it can affect the way you behave around others, which may put a strain on friendships.
Your role: Don't force your mate to open up about what's going on at home. If they want to talk, they'll do so in their own time. If things are rough at home, however, they may appreciate more time with you, so create some opportunities to get out and about and see how they respond.
They're having problems with drink or drugs
People turn to drugs for all sorts of different reasons. Some know the risks when they do so, others buy into big myths. Most aim to have a good time, but drink and drugs can create problems for those who simply feel the need to blot out troubling issues in their lives.
Your role: If you're worried about a mate's relationship with drink or drugs, you owe it to yourself (and to them) to find out the facts first. It has to be better than steaming in without really knowing what you're talking about. Call Drinkline (tel: 0800 917 8282) or Talk to Frank with any questions you may have. In some ways it'll serve as a trial run when you raise the issue with your friend, and saves any overreactions.
Choose a calm, quiet moment when they're not bombed or blitzed, and simply express your concern. You need to be able to back yourself up with examples of any change in their behaviour as a result of drink or drugs, but don't risk making them feel embarrassed or even angry. Just stress that you're ready to help them overcome any problems that have led to this situation. They might not respond as you hope straight away, but do leave them with the helpline contacts in the Next steps box, just to give them every option to regain control. At the very least, they'll register your concern, which means they'll know who to count on when the time feels right to get back on track.
They've been dumped
When mates find love, it's likely you'll see less of them than usual. Let's face it, you'd do the same in their shoes - largely because you know you can count on a good friend to be there for you if things don't work out. So long as you don't take them for granted, what can go wrong? Hmmm...
Your role: If a mate finds themself on the wrong end of a relationship, and falls upon your shoulder weeping, it's your role to offer support. This can take the form of reassurance, or just a listening ear as they sound off about what's going through their heart and mind. Just avoid being drawn into any kind of 'he's a bastard/she's a cow' type bitchathons, because it could be used as evidence against you should the unhappy couple get back together again.
Also be aware that your mate might not want to talk about the situation at all, and that's fine. Sometimes, people who've been dumped just want to get out of the house and do anything but pick over their love life, which is where you can come in. If you're unsure what they want from you, just ask.
Similarly, if you begin to feel more like a shrink than someone who used to enjoy hanging out together, then speak up before resentment kicks in. If you're true friends, you'll get through it no matter what.
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