I’m worried about a friend – what can I do?

You may be worried about a friend who is a victim of crime.

This content has been written for children and young people. If you’re looking for information for over 18s, visit our Coping with Crime information.

Your friend may have told you what has happened, or you may have noticed a change in their behaviour. They might be struggling to cope with something that happened to them in the past, or something that is happening to them now.

It can be hard to know what to do, but talking to them can be a big help.

You may have noticed that your friend’s behaviour has changed and notice that your friend is:

  • sleeping more than usual, or struggling to sleep
  • tearful, down and low in mood
  • spending more time on their own, or avoiding getting in touch with you or other friends
  • avoiding things they did before, such as no longer attending the youth club or sports club
  • eating too much, bingeing or avoiding eating
  • self-harming
  • using drugs, alcohol or smoking
  • running away or going missing
  • getting angry

If your friend’s behaviour has changed you may want to try talking to them about how they are feeling and what has happened.

You can’t force your friend to talk, but let them know you will always be there to listen. If your friend is not ready to talk to you at the moment about what’s happened, it could be that they are:

  • scared of getting into trouble
  • scared about getting someone else into trouble
  • worried nobody will understand how they are feeling
  • worried about being judged
  • embarrassed or ashamed of what has happened
  • scared of being hurt if they tell, or have been told or threatened not to tell anyone
  • worried they won’t be believed.

Listening can be a great way to help a friend, but often there are problems that you will need help from others. Remember to speak to an adult you trust if you think your friend is at risk or is unsafe; this could include a teacher, a family member, your youth worker, social worker or support worker. It can be difficult to know how to have this conversation so we have some tips on asking for help.

When you are worried about a friend, it can be really difficult to start talking to them about why you are worried. Here are some tips on how you can start the conversation with your friend and help them to get the right support:

  • Leave enough time to speak to your friend – if one of you is in a rush, you may not have time to talk properly.
  • Pick a place where you both feel safe and comfortable to talk to each other, such as at home, school, or your youth club.
  • Tell them why you are worried about them – say: ‘I am worried about you because…’
  • Listen carefully to what your friend is telling you.
  • Don’t judge your friend.
  • Your friend might think about reporting it to the police. If you think your friend is at immediate risk of getting hurt, call 999.
  • If your friend tells you something that makes you think they will be in danger, let them know you will need to get help, and speak to an adult you trust.
  • Help your friend tell an adult they trust; you might go with them to talk to this adult or help them write down what they want to say. This safe adult could then help your friend develop a safety plan that would help them choose how best to keep themselves safe.
  • Check that your friend knows where they can go to get help. You might look together at the Who can help sections on the Crime Info pages of this website or the Services near me.
  • Make sure you look after yourself; you may need to talk to an adult about how you are feeling. Remember what is happening to your friend isn’t your fault and you should not have to take this all on yourself.