What to do when someone doesn’t want help

You can feel really powerless when someone close to you needs help, but doesn’t want help. Find out why people don’t always seek help when they need it, and get some tips on how to support them, including knowing what to do when things get really serious.

This can help if…

  • someone you know is going through a tough time
  • you’re getting frustrated because you can’t help
  • you want some tips on how to be there during tough times
teen girl walking along beam at beach while holding boys hand

Why people don’t want help

If people are finding things are getting the better of them, making a decision to seek help can be a really hard thing to do. Coming around to the realisation that they're going through a rough patch can be scary and difficult, so it's understandable that many people take some time before deciding to seek help. 

If someone you know is going through a tough time, and they're rejecting your offers of advice and support, it’s common to feel like you’re powerless to do anything.  Feeling powerless is pretty awful and can be frustrating but,  you can still be there for a friend that isn't ready to seek help. You might just need to take a different approach to the way you support them. 

How to be there for someone who isn’t ready to get help

If you’ve been offering advice and support to someone, and they haven’t been responding very well, there are some things you should avoid doing, and some new strategies you can try.

 DON’T

  • try and force the issue
  • put pressure on them 
  • avoid them.

When people try and pressure or force a friend to get help, it always comes from a good place, but it can actually have the opposite effect to what they intend – and could turn their friend off help seeking altogether. Avoiding a friend is also not a great idea –it’s likely to make them feel isolated, and it means if they do become ready to seek help, they might not feel comfortable about going to you for support.

DO

Continue to be supportive. You can:

  • Be available to listen to your friend when they need.
  • Offer help or suggestions if and when your friend reaches out to you and asks for your advice. 
  • Get informed. Do a bit of research into what help is available in your area that could be useful for your friend. That way, if they decide they’re ready to seek help, you’ll be able to give them some direction about who they can go and see. 
  • Talk to someone yourself. You need to look after yourself as well, and feeling like you can’t help someone is really frustrating and can make you feel pretty helpless. Talk through how you’re feeling with someone you trust.
  • Set boundaries. You need to look out for yourself, and you’re not going to be able to be there for someone at every moment of every day. Set some limits on things you are willing and not willing to do – and stick to them! (e.g. work out if you're comfortable accompanying them to appointments). 

If things are really serious.

While in most circumstances, it's a good idea to give a friend time to ready themselves to seek help, if you think someone is in danger or at risk as a result of what is going on, it’s important that you seek help immediately

If you think your friend is in danger or at serious risk, but they don't want help, you might be worried about going against their wishes. However, it's better to have an angry friend than a friend who is in serious trouble or is seriously hurt. Check out the right hand side of the page for numbers to call in an emergency.

What can I do now?

  • Learn more about listening skills
  • If you’re worried that someone’s at risk, tell someone you trust or call a helpline
  • Have someone that you can talk to yourself if you’re finding it tough
Last reviewed: 16 February, 2014
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