Ask Jigsaw: Supporting my friends - jigsaw online

Ask Jigsaw: Supporting my friends

All of my close friend have been through bad mental health. Some just took time off school to reboot, some to therapists , and some to cahms/st.pats. I’ve been there for all of them throughout the years. First one was age 9 to now. Some are doing good and some are going down the wrong path into drugs. One in particular who I’ve known for my whole life is now known as the ‘popular pretty girl who was in a mental hospital’. She’s now heavy on drugs and can’t go a few days without going out and taking more. I don’t know what to do it’s starting to eat me up inside and now I can see myself going down the same path as the others in terms of mental health.

I was the strong happy funny kind girl who everyone counted on and vented to but now it’s all getting too much and I can’t separate myself because they all need my help but I also can’t continue doing this because I’m slowly losing my mind. I’m going into 6th year now so I want school to be my number one concern but my friends are all good in a bad place and I need to be there for them so I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I’m making sense there’s so much more to it and my minds going crazy.

I just need advice on how to balance helping my friends , school , social life and my own mental health and prepare myself for 6th year.

-Butterfly

Unless we prioritise looking after ourselves, we won’t have the capacity to be there for someone else.

Claire, Jigsaw Clinician

Hi Butterfly,

It’s sounds like you are a really compassionate person and have been there for a lot of your friends over the years. While it is a nice to be able to support others, without a doubt it can take a toll on us. You may have heard the flight attendant on an airplane telling you to ‘look after your own mask first’. This is because, unless we prioritise looking after ourselves, we won’t have the capacity to be there for someone else. Looking after your own mental health is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

Responsibility

I can hear the concern that you have for your friends, and particularly when they are making risky decisions around drug-taking. While I know you want to be there for your friends, it is important that you don’t feel that it is your responsibility to make other people feel better or to protect them from themselves. It can be really hard to see our friends making choices that are damaging. Although you can share your concern with someone, and you may point out the risks of certain behaviours, ultimately what another person decides to do is outside of our control.

You also mention that a number of your friends are accessing professional support, which is great. Once a young person starts accessing a service such as CAMHS, then the service has a duty of care to support that young person. It can be helpful to recognise that your role is that of a friend, not to be a counsellor or support worker. That is the job of those services. It is important to know your own limits in terms of the amount and type of support you can offer to your friends. Going beyond those limits can be damaging for both of you.

 

It is important to know your own limits in terms of the amount and type of support you can offer to your friends.

Claire, Jigsaw Clinician

It is also worth remembering that friendship should be a two-way street. There will be times when you will be able to support your friends, but they should also be willing to be there for you when you need support. Every now and then it can be worth stepping back and reviewing the relationships in our lives. Are we getting as much from the relationships as we are putting in? Our friendships may change and develop over time, and although it can be difficult, at times we may need to let a friendship go or put it on hold for a period of time.

Reach out

You mention that you want to balance a range of different things as you head in to 6th year. It is great that you are being proactive in finding ways to manage your stress. However, it might be a good idea to think about talking to someone about all that is going on for you. Remember, if you are struggling with your mental health, the earlier you reach out and talk about it, the easier it can be to manage, although it is never too late to ask for help.