two women supporting one another sitting on a couch

How to help when a friend is overwhelmed and not coping

Supporting someone you care about, can be a difficult and stressful time.

Do you have a friend that’s overwhelmed? Are they struggling to cope? If you’ve reached out to them and they’ve admitted they’re struggling with everything that’s going on right now, you’ve done the right thing. But what next?


Seven tips on how to help when a friend is overwhelmed and not coping


1. Taking a minute to ask how they’re feeling

Just taking a minute to ask someone how they are feeling can make a real difference. It lets your friend know that you care about them, and are there to support them.


2. Listen to what they say

Make sure you really listen to what they have to say. By making eye contact, not interrupting them, and listening without judgement you are providing great, reassuring support. By talking about what’s going on with them right now, your friend can start to feel some relief and less isolated and overwhelmed.


3. Ask questions

Asking questions shows you are engaged in the conversation, and may make your friend open up more. Always try to ask questions, as opposed to trying to solve their problems.


4. Offer support

Tell your friend you are there for them. Repeat to them they don’t have to deal with these overwhelming feelings alone. Ask them what support they need from you, and find out if they have spoken with anyone else about their situation.


5. Getting professional support

Explain to your friend that you’re not a professional counsellor or doctor, so won’t have all the answers, so encourage your friend to seek professional help. Especially if they have been overwhelmed and not coping for a while.


Offer to help the person find support or make an appointment together by:

  • calling a helpline like Suicide Call Back Service 1300 651 251
  • speaking to their GP
  • seeing a psychologist
  • contacting their employer’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

If your friend is self-harming or talks about suicide, it is essential for them to get professional help straight away.

If you are worried about your friend’s safety, let someone else know. If they have said they don’t want you to let anybody know, you can call Suicide Call Back Service yourself, for free, and ask a professional counsellor for advice on how to best support your friend.


6. Keep in touch

Check in with your friend on a regular basis and find out how they’re doing.


7. Look after yourself

Hearing about your friend’s problems can affect you too. Make sure you do something you enjoy to relieve the stress. You can find further information about looking after yourself here.


If you are worried about someone, and need someone to talk to, call the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 to speak to a counsellor.

If it is an emergency, please call 000.