I'm worried about somebody at school

The behaviour of someone you're at school or doing an apprenticeship with changes. Well done for noticing. Talking about it helps. These Conversation tips will help.

Stress at school, with teachers, parents, colleagues or simply their own adolescence can make people ill.

Have you noticed that a friend, for several weeks or months:

  • has trouble keeping up at school
  • has retreated into their shell and no longer goes out
  • often bunks off school
  • often can't concentrate or reacts irritably
  • somehow gives the impression of having changed or being sad?

Then it's time to take action.

Talking helps

The first step towards alleviating anxiety, anger and other negative feelings is to talk about them. By telling your colleague what it is about their behaviour that you have noticed, you’ll help prevent their worries from getting any worse.

Talking eases strains and gives us strength

Talking alone won't make anyone's problems go away You shouldn't expect everything to change immediately after your conversation, However, having someone who listens and is interested and sympathetic brings relief and hope. It does you good.

You don't need to solve the problems

Many people are afraid that if they talk to sufferers about their problems, they'll have to solve them. That puts them off saying anything. However, it would never occur to you to remove someone's inflamed appendix – and nor are you expected to be able to cure depression, for example. Your sympathetic ear and your interest give the help that's needed.

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«Even if it seems awkward first, reach out to your friends (...) let them know, that it's okay to feel the way that they are feeling, that their feelings are valid and there is nothing wrong with that.»

Meredith, Influencer

Um deine persönlichen Daten zu schützen, haben wir die Verknüpfung zu Youtube blockiert. Klicke auf «Video abspielen» um die Blockierung aufzuheben.

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«If you don't know what to say, just be there for your friend»

Celebrities advise how to start a conversation about mental health.

Start a conversation

Consider your own mood

Don't try to start the conversation unless you're feeling at ease and confident.

Pick a suitable time

An in-depth conversation takes time, so don't start it if either of you has to be somewhere in ten minutes' time. Sometimes it helps to ask when the person has time for a conversation.

I'd like to have a quiet word with you. When would be a good time?

Find a suitable place

where you won't be disturbed and you both feel at ease. Many people find it easier to talk about difficult things while walking. You might go for a walk or a bike ride together.

Shall we go down to the lake for an ice cream?

Let's go to the sports ground – we could shoot a few hoops.

It's OK if it doesn't work

The other person may well not respond to your invitation to talk. Don't take it personally. Maybe they're not in the mood, or perhaps they need time to pluck up courage. Try again later.

OK, I understand. Would some other time suit you better?

Or you can ask for advice on the best way forward. Approach an adult whom you trust – at school, in your family, at the youth centre. 147 advice + help will also advise you or your friend.

The conversation

You might start like this:

I'm worried about you. You've been looking unhappy lately.

It's a shame that you don't come out with us anymore. Are things not going well for you?"

I get the impression you're very concerned about something. Would you like to tell me about it?

Listening is what matters most

Many people are afraid of not being able to find the right words. But it does a sufferer good if somebody simply listens. Your objective for the conversation is to understand what your friend is feeling. Think up good questions rather than looking for answers.

What is especially difficult for you at the moment?

How does it feel to be in this situation?

Can you tell me what makes you feel good at the moment?

What would have to change for you to feel better?

Show sympathy

It feels good to be understood. You might express sympathy by saying:

I get it, that's stressing you out.

I'm sorry things are going so badly for you.

Silences are not a problem

Everybody sometimes has trouble finding words when talking about difficult situations. Don't be in a hurry to end pauses and silences. To get the conversation going again, it sometimes helps to say:

At the moment I don't know what to say either.

Know your own limitations

If you form the impression that the other person needs more help, you might say

I don't know how we can move on with this either.

Would you like to talk to a professional?

Here are a few addresses and services. That isn't always necessary, though.

Don't offer to give more help unless you want to provide it

Your attention and your readiness to listen are a great help on their own. If that's as far as it goes, that's OK too. If you feel like it, you can offer practical help like accompanying your friend to a meeting with an adult whom you both trust. Or you could just stick to listening:

You can certainly talk to me about it again if you like.

You should avoid

Don't play the blame game

Remarks like «Loosen up!» or «You're always such a pessimist» are not helpful. If things are going badly for your friend or if they even have a mental illness, it's not easy to put right. In these cases sufferers often no longer have the willpower or strength simply to change something.

No advice or hints

We have a tendency to want to offer solutions. Remarks like «Next time, simply do this or that» can put sufferers under pressure. Or they get the feeling that they haven't been properly listened to. Listen carefully.

Don't talk about your own problems

Sometimes, with the best of intentions – to show understanding and sympathy – we talk about our own problems. This makes your friend feel you're not taking them seriously. But if you yourself have been through a very similar situation, you can naturally share your experience.

Don't deliver any diagnoses

Even if you suspect that your friend has a specific illness, leave diagnosis to a specialist – otherwise they may feel that you've pinned a label on them.

No belittlement

Don't say «Everything will be fine again soon» or «This will pass». Remarks like this make sufferers feel that they're not being taken seriously.

Don't put your friend under pressure

You should go into the conversation with the attitude that you only want to know what the other person wants to tell you. If they break off the conversation, don't try to prolong it. You can try again another time.

End a conversation

Sometimes the conversation can just all get too much. These words will help you find a good way to end it.

I don't think we're getting anywhere at the moment. Is it OK with you if we talk about something else?

I don't know what to say. Shall we do some gaming? We can talk more about it another time.

After the conversation

Whatever you hear, keep it to yourself

If private matters came up in the conversation, keep them to yourself. If you need to talk to somebody else about them, don't name names – or talk to your parents or some other adult whom you trust, like a godparent, a member of staff or someone in the school's social service.

Exception: If your friend is in danger, seek help straight away

Maybe your friend says he'll kill himself if things don't get better, or you find out that your girlfriend has been physically abused or something just as bad. In these cases you should approach an adult whom you trust. If you have nobody like that, call 147 or write to them for advice and help. They advise friends of people in crisis as well as the sufferers themselves. If bad things are happening to your friend, you will do her no favours by keeping them to yourself.

Make sure you're all right

Don't get involved in anything you feel uncomfortable with. It won't help anybody if – out of friendship – you fall ill or expose yourself to danger. Take time for your own needs and interests.