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Giving and seeking help in relationships

It's OK to seek help in your relationships. You can also help others get the help they need, while respecting their boundaries

In short:

  • It’s important to understand and respect other people’s boundaries when you are being a supportive friend or partner.
  • You need to consider their consent, privacy and confidentiality when thinking about how you might help.

What does it mean to be supportive and respect others' boundaries?

What does it mean to be a supportive friend or partner? How do you know what the boundaries are, and when and how to help others to seek help? The participants in this video discuss the importance in a respectful relationship of actively listening without feeling as though you have to offer solutions or fix a problem.

Visual Audio

Shailja

It's like listening first and being a really active listener, gauging what they're saying and emotionally what they're feeling.

And then, you know, when they're comfortable.

Being like, 'OK, what can we do to help you out? What sort of actions should we do together to get you the best help that you need?'

Georges

And yeah, especially with friends, I think the best thing is, because not everyone's going to open up.

Nathan

I think listen, like at the top.

Provide advice, but you've gotta be careful because you can't overstep your boundaries when it comes to relationships in giving advice. It's so easy to do that.

Aroha

Definitely. I feel like you have to be OK with yourself first before you give that listening ear, because sometimes emotions and feelings from your side can come out and it can affect the advice that you give to somebody.

Angelica

Make sure that rather than saying, 'Oh well, this is what you need', actually hearing them out, and listening.

Domina

You won't have all the solutions, and you don't have to have all the solutions.

There will be people out there who are willing to support you. 

And, you know, if there's a friend who came to you, and they need your support, let them lead what that looks like for them, and let them choose what that looks like for them and that agency and choice and consent.

Giving support in relationships

 

‘I think listen, at the top. Provide advice, but you've got to be careful because you can't overstep your boundaries...’ – Nathan.

Angelica
Angelica is an advocate and researcher for youth affairs and equality. Angelica's advocacy has included being a Youth Ambassador with Multicultural Youth Affairs Network (MYAN NSW), founding member of the African Australian Youth Suicide Prevention Committee, and a Youth Activist for Plan International Australia supporting their work on online and street harassment. She is the 2022 Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations. 

Aroha
Aroha is a proud Darrriebullum, Kuku-Yalnji, Ngāphui and Ngātiporou woman from South-East Queensland. She is a graduate of NAISDA Dance College, co-founder of contemporary dance theatre collective, ‘Lost All Sorts Collective’ and is exploring writing and dance on film.

Domina
Domina is a South Indian woman occupying Darug Land. She works in the disability sector and is interested in equity and justice. She studies Social Work at University of Sydney and is a Youth Ambassador with Multicultural Youth Affairs Network (MYAN NSW).

Georges
Georges is passionate to provide value to young people of multicultural backgrounds in areas usually not highly prioritised. He works with youth soccer clubs on the inclusion and development of pathways to include more diverse young players. 

Nathan
Nathan is a proud Worimi man from Karuah in Port Stephens. He is a production coordinator/producer in news and current affairs, and loves helping his Mob tell their stories. Nathan is a huge advocate for diversity behind and in front of the camera. 

Shailja
Shailja is a young Australian of Fiji-Indian descent who is passionate about building community and empowering young women of colour. She is determined to create change through collaboration and innovative problem-solving.

Things to think about

  • What are the qualities of being a supportive friend or partner? Why might someone tell you about a problem they are having online or offline? For example, they may just want someone to listen to them, to feel less alone or to work out who else can help.
  • How can you find out what will support them? Why might you need to carefully consider their consent, privacy and confidentiality when thinking about how you might help? 
  • What other paths could you explore to support your friend?

Remember: it's OK if you're not sure how to help, or don't feel comfortable advising others. Instead, you can point them to a trusted adult, another trusted person or support services.

What can get in the way and stop someone from reaching out for help?

How can we overcome these barriers and seek the help we need? The participants in this video discuss how we are all different when it comes to who we turn to for support and how we reach out. They talk about what they have seen work in supporting themselves and others to seek help. 

Visual Audio

Cosmin

I think the biggest problem that stops people from seeking help, the biggest barrier is probably the stigma, for one.

Like, people don't see relationships as a problem to maybe talk to the school counsellor about, but the truth is, if that is an issue, then, yeah, go and talk to the school counsellor about it.

The school counsellor is there to support you emotionally and your wellbeing, and your relationship is a huge part of that, right?

Angelica

You know, that primary-high school environment, you often feel like you don't have as much agency to be able to actually speak up or be able to share what you want to.

And the power dynamics that I see is that there's an element of fear that's attached to it.

You know, when you're younger and, you know, whether it's to your teachers, your principal or just anyone who's older in your environments around you, there's a fear of being shut down, a fear of being ridiculed because of your age or what you have to say, or a fear that your experiences aren't as valid to others.

And then on top of that there's also so many other intersecting things that come into the way that power and dominance, you know, feeds into relationships.

Nathan

I think stigma. Like, peer stigma.

Aroha

Yeah, a lot of shame factor.

Nathan

Yeah, a lot of shame, embarrassment.

Aroha

Not being like the others, like conforming.

Like, if everyone else is normal, then what's wrong with you?

You don't wanna be that outcasted person.

I think most people are worrying about themselves.

Shailja

There's a lot of stigma around mental health and like, having those sort of problems.

And I think, you know, you can become really embarrassed that like, 'Oh, you know, you're such a high achiever, how come you're dealing with this stuff? How come you can't cope with the stress?'

So I think being able to sort of beat that embarrassment and beat that stigma, I think is really important, especially if you're the person who's asking for help.

It's finding out where those resources are, and making sure those resources are accessible, they're affordable. They're something that I can reach to by, you know, public transport if I can't drive.

There's something that, you know, they're confidential.

Like, I don't want to maybe say get my parents involved in this issue.

So I think making sure that there's resources out there and those resources are accessible to young people.

Georges

Just having someone you know you can rely on or you're comfortable in talking to.

If you have that person you can go up to them and, you know, tell them how you're doing and ask for help.

Ask if they can accompany you to a place that you need to go.

Ask if they can help you with something.

And just having that person around or with you, it makes a big difference.

Aroha

I know in some schools they will have cultural rooms and they'll have rooms available during lunch breaks and stuff like that where students can go in and have space to chill out, and usually there'll be a guidance counsellor in there.

They also offer support lines like Lifeline and the Kids Helpline as well.

And I think, because I used to be in those rooms a lot, and I found that even being in there, other children from the same kind of backgrounds would be in there and you would create your own little support group with them.

And I feel like those are the kind of places that need to be more available.

Abdallah

It's alright to ask questions. It's alright to reach out to someone who's older and get their advice because it's all new things that we go through and we learn from that experience.

And usually other people might have gone through that experience before.

Shahida

I went to events and saw people speaking about their experiences, and how the more they shared, the more relief they feel, the more they get comfortable and more powerful, because your experiences are your power.

And I think the first thing that I did was just, you know, speak up, share it with my friend and see how she reacts.

Of course she's not gonna react in a negative way because I trust her.

Shailja

Stand up for yourselves, even if you think it's really difficult, even if you think it's really hard, even if you think no one's gonna hear you,

Sometimes it's good enough that you made an effort.

It's good enough that you at least spoke it aloud.

And so, in that case, do that, even if it's a little thing.

If it does make you uncomfortable, you saying something would probably make a difference, even if it just makes yourself feel better.

So I think embracing that I think is really important.

Abdallah

You have to speak up.

There's a lot of services that are available.

Sometimes it doesn't have to be someone who's related to you.

Sometimes you want the information to remain confidential.

You don't wanna reach out to a friend or to a teacher.

So there's a lot of great services that are available where everything can remain confidential, so you can reach out to them, speak to them.

There's even, these days we can just text them online.

You don't even have to speak over the phone.

And I think from there you can get great advice on whom you can reach out to or what action you can take regarding the situation.

Seeking help and what can get in the way

 

‘You have to speak up... Sometimes you want the information to remain confidential. You don't want to reach out to a friend or to a teacher... there's a lot of great services... everything can remain confidential, so you can reach out to them.’ – Abdallah. 

Abdallah
Abdallah is a passionate youth worker, specialising in refugee resettlement with an educational background in Social Work. When he is not busy studying and working, Abdallah volunteers his time for the newly arrived young refugees, in their resettlement journeys.

Angelica
Angelica is an advocate and researcher for youth affairs and equality. Angelica's advocacy has included being a Youth Ambassador with Multicultural Youth Affairs Network (MYAN NSW), founding member of the African Australian Youth Suicide Prevention Committee, and a Youth Activist for Plan International Australia supporting their work on online and street harassment. She is the 2022 Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations. 

Aroha
Aroha is a proud Darrriebullum, Kuku-Yalnji, Ngāphui and Ngātiporou woman from South-East Queensland. She is a graduate of NAISDA Dance College, co-founder of contemporary dance theatre collective, ‘Lost All Sorts Collective’ and is exploring writing and dance on film.

Domina
Domina is a South Indian woman occupying Darug Land. She works in the disability sector and is interested in equity and justice. She studies Social Work at University of Sydney and is a Youth Ambassador with Multicultural Youth Affairs Network (MYAN NSW).

Georges
Georges is passionate to provide value to young people of multicultural backgrounds in areas usually not highly prioritised. He works with youth soccer clubs on the inclusion and development of pathways to include more diverse young players. 

Nathan
Nathan is a proud Worimi man from Karuah in Port Stephens. He is a production coordinator/producer in news and current affairs, and loves helping his Mob tell their stories. Nathan is a huge advocate for diversity behind and in front of the camera. 

Shahida
Shahida is originally from Afghanistan and arrived in Australia in 2017. She is currently in university studying Bachelor of Business and Law. 

Shailja
Shailja is a young Australian of Fiji-Indian descent who is passionate about building community and empowering young women of colour. She is determined to create change through collaboration and innovative problem-solving.

Things to think about

  • Why is it important to be aware of the barriers that might exist to seeking help with online and offline issues in relationships? What barriers (if any) have you experienced? How might you overcome these barriers with support? 
  • Map your wellbeing network. It's important to be aware of the various support networks in your personal lives and school communities. You can also seek help from confidential counselling and support services. If you are experiencing serious online abuse, you can report it to eSafety.

Where to find more information

Get support from confidential counselling and support services

Kids Helpline

5 to 25 year olds. All issues. Confidential phone counselling available all day, every day. Online chat available 24/7, 365 days a year.

Headspace

12 to 25 year olds. All issues. Phone counselling and online chat available 9am to 1am AEST, every day.

More support services

Are you an educator?

View SBS Learn's Connect with Respect classroom resource.

Last updated: 25/01/2024