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To Sam

My friend was sectioned

One of my closest friend has been sectioned in a mental health unit. They usually only stay for a couple weeks but she has been there for around 13 and counting. She gets support from school but not much from her family as it is following a big court case where a relative has just been jailed for 18 years. I think that he sexually abused her and others too as this is what he was jailed for, although she starts to have massive panic attacks if she talks about it. She doesnt eat or drink by herself and she selfharms yet she is such a caring peron towards others. I want to know what i can do to help as i have visited her a few times but i am under 18 so can not go alone. I am also in the middle of exams and i am under prepared and i also have massive mood swings. There was talk of my parents actually fostering my friend but this couldnt happen as my behaviour is too uncontrollable. I cant help feeling very selfish and i dont know what to do. I hate the physical act of talking about it to anyone. Can you help?? Thanks
Ask Sam


Hi there,

It can be really difficult to see a friend going through a tough time, especially when you are dealing with your own issues. Helping others is usually the right thing to do, but it’s important to be aware of how much if affects you and also to recognise that there is a limit to what you can do as a friend.

From what you have said, you think your friend may have been sexually abused by a relative and has recently been through a difficult court case. Your friend is taking such positive steps forward in getting support from the professionals at the Mental Health Unit for her eating issues, self-harm and panic attacks.

You sound like a really caring young person and she is lucky to have such a supportive friend. Supporting other people who self-harm can be very hard so it’s really important to look after your own feelings whilst looking out for your friend.

Asking for help and talking to people out loud can be difficult to do. You have shown real strength getting in touch to talk to us, talking to someone that cares can help offload your own thoughts and feelings and get you support that you deserve too.

It’s frustrating not to be able to visit your friend when you want. One way round this would be to become a pen pal and writing a letter or email to her. It might be a way you can both talk keep regular contact and express yourselves freely to each other.

You spoke about how your parents had considered fostering your friend. It sounds like this didn’t happen as it wasn’t the right thing for your friend or for you and your family and I can hear that you feel guilty about that. It’s important to remember you haven’t done anything wrong, both you and your friend deserve to be happy. You are as important as everyone else and if your friend had moved in, that may have taken away some of the support that your family can give to you. 

We are always here to listen and support you and you are never alone. ChildLine counsellors are always here if you’d like to talk some more.

You may also find our message boards a good place to get some thoughts and advice from other young people in sometimes similar situations.

Take care for now

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