Helping others
Te āwhina i ētahi atu

Mates are there for each other in the good times, and the bad times. Being there for  a mate in the good times is usually easy and enjoyable. But when a mate goes through a rough patch, it can be hard to know what to do or say.

This can be particularly challenging if your friend is not having just a bad day but experiencing a mental health difficulty.

This section outlines some of the signs that show if your mate needs help, places to go to understand what they're going through and some of the things you can do, to give them a hand. 

Don't hesitate, if they are in immediate danger, call 111 immediately.

How can you tell if they need help?

Even if you think you know someone, it can sometimes be hard to tell how much emotional pain they are in and whether they need help.

Often, it's something small that can make you think something isn't quite right - and often, that hunch will be right. 

Signs- R U OK?

What to look for

People aren't always upfront about the things that are bothering them, especially when it involves a mental health issue, even with their best mates. Signs to watch for in your mate-

  • Don't want to see their friends or no longer enjoy spending time with their friends and family.
  • Stop doing things they used to love or don't seem to be enjoying themselves.
  • Can't remember things, concentrate, or pay attention.
  • Feel bad about themselves - guilty, worthless or ashamed.
  • Have a big change in their eating patterns or appetite.
  • Have extreme mood swings.
  • Feel hopeless or sad, or cry a lot.
  • Feel anxious, stressed, nervous or scared a lot and can't seem to relax.
  • Are not happy unless they're using drugs or alcohol.
  • Don't take care of their appearance or personal hygiene.
  • Have physical signs of injury or that they are hurting themselves. 
  • Have panic attacks -  rapid heartbeat, unable to breathe, feeling dizzy and extremely scared or anxious all at once. 

What can you do to help?

There are some simple steps you can take to look after your mates, regardless of what challenges they may be facing. 

These steps are sometimes called ‘Mental Health First Aid’, and can be remembered using the simple acronym: REACT

Where they can get help

Recommend they see their doctor

If you feel comfortable about it, perhaps you could offer to be with them for the appointment.

Suggest they call helpline or a counsellor

For some people, simply talking to someone independent can be the best first step.

They can call or text a helpline or counsellor. For example: Our NZDF helpline 0800 NZDF4U, TXT 8881, Lifeline 0800 543 354, Crisis Support Services 0508 828 865 or Men’s Line 0800 636 754.

If they are in immediate danger

Don’t hesitate, if they are in immediate danger, call 111 immediately.

Tips on supporting a mate

Looking after yourself

A big part of being able to support someone else is looking after yourself first. Supporting a friend who is going through a difficult time can have an impact on you, so it’s important to practise regular self-care so you stay well and can continue supporting them. Try these:

  • Talk to someone you trust – As social beings, we are affected by the emotions of others, and this is normal. Talking through your own feelings with someone you trust can help you process your response to your friend’s experience and help boost your own self-understanding and resilience.
  • Know your boundaries – Let your friend know what you can do for them. This sets a consistent expectation and helps you to safeguard your own needs such as having time for other relationships and your own hauora (health and well-being).
  • Keep things in balance – Take time for yourself as well and do things that help you relax and recharge. These may include spending time in nature, nourishing important relationships or engaging in activities that give you a sense of purpose or spiritual enrichment.

Find out what they’re going through

It can really help you and your mate, if you know what they’re going through,

We have lots of information here on this website about different problems and mental health issues, faced by members of the NZDF and their families, have a read and school yourself up before you talk again.

  • The Mental Health Foundation. A website full of useful information and they also offer other services including live chat, email, phone assistance and more. There is no charge for the services and materials they provide.
  • The Lowdown. An interactive website for young people that provides information, real stories and support resources for young people going through difficult times. The site gives access to a team of counsellors who provide email, phone, webcam and text-based support services for young people.
  • Yellow Brick Road is an organisation that supports family and whānau to provide the best possible quality of life and recovery to their loved one who has a mental illness and helps family members with their own self-care. Supporting Families promotes the rights and needs of individuals affected by mental illness and their families, and offers free information, education and support groups.

You are not alone