U can cope! how to cope when life is difficult

for children and young people

When life is difficult, it's important to be able to cope without feeling emotionally overwhelmed. Another word for this is 'resilience'. In other words, resilience is the ability to cope with upsetting or difficult life events and...be the best we can be

  • deal effectively with difficulties
  • become stronger and feel OK
  • bounce back
  • learn from mistakes and bad experiences and then be able to leave them behind.

We can improve our ability to cope. This leaflet will give you some ideas about how to do this.


This is information, not advice. Please read our disclaimer.

  • thinking and learning about who we are
  • having caring relationships with people
  • knowing what to expect from others, and ourselves
  • joining in with the people we live with, our friends and family, in school, college or work and in our local community
  • knowing that people 'believe' in us.

Not all of us have everything in the list above, but we can still do things for ourselves to help our situation. It might be difficult to see how you could change some of these things for the better, but you can.

We can learn to understand and work through feelings of anger, sadness or rejection and get beyond them.

  • Learning who we are and what we want from life.
  • Learning what we need - knowing how to speak to others politely while still getting our message across, and knowing that what we do can make a difference.
  • Be interested in yourself! - your feelings count, they are important and valuable, so pay attention to them!
  • Learning what we want to do - the belief and understanding that our life has meaning and we can make a difference to other people and other things.
  • Developing a purpose in life - having specific plans or dreams for ourselves.
  • Trying to find ways to think positively so we can:
  • Feel good about our future - which is more likely to help positive things happen. It might be difficult to see how you could change some of these things for the better, but there are some tips in this leaflet for that. There are also things you can do within yourself ...

These are some of the things about you that you could work on to develop your resilience and become good at coping with difficulties. These include practical things such as:

  • make time to enjoy life and have fun!
  • meet up with friends
  • join a youth club or activity group
  • have a hobby
  • take part in family activity you enjoy
  • take part in sports or go for a walk with friends
  • listen to music that makes you feel happy, play an instrument, 'air drums', sing
  • watch TV, use a computer or play on a 'gadget' for a short time
  • phone or text a friend
  • read a magazine or book, or write something yourself
  • look after a pet, walk a friend's dog
  • be kind to yourself ... find new ways to relax and have fun
  • be kind to someone, help someone, just because you can ...!! Nothing feels quite as good as knowing we have a purpose in life!

Look after yourself ... act early ...

Get help if you feel that you are getting more worried. Try doing something you enjoy to help see you through. Write a 'worry list' of what's bothering you - break it down into small and manageable parts and tackle each one at a time ...

If you are worried or sad, it may feel like a lonely time, but there are people who want to help you, even if just by listening.

  • Keep a reminder of the people and things you love on your mobile or in your pocket, wallet or purse to remind you if you ever need cheering up.
  • Make a list of people you trust who would want to listen and help you. Can you share your feelings with your Mum and Dad or your carer? Think about family, other trusted adults and friends you can talk to.
  • Make a plan about who you can tell, if needed. Remember, we all need to talk about things sometimes. If we know who we can talk to before we need them, it makes it so much easier.
  • Keep this leaflet in a safe place. You never know, you may be on someone else's list and this could help them to build their resilience.


My personal plan



Helpful suggestions to think about

  • Thousands of people are overwhelmed every day ... but find ways to get through these intense feelings - like them, you can get through it.
  • You just have to cope with one day at a time.
  • Your distress can be a sign that you need to change something in your life.
  • Keep this leaflet in a safe place. You never know when you, or someone you care about, might need it.

Anything you tell them will be completely confidential. The volunteers are ordinary people who won't judge you.

Some of the most popular organisations are listed below. You may contact as many or as few as you like - it's up to you and it's OK to contact more than one.


Website | Tel: 0800 068 41 41

PAPYRUS aims to prevent young people taking their own lives. A professionally staffed helpline provides support, practical advice and information both to young people worried about themselves, and to anyone concerned that a young person may harm themselves. PAPYRUS has a range of helpful resources including HOPELineUK contact cards or call 01925 572444 for a sample pack.


Website | Tel: 116 123 (24/7)

Email: jo@samaritans.org

A 24/7 helpline service which gives you a safe space where you can talk about what is happening, how you are feeling, and how to find your own way forward. Samaritans volunteers are ordinary people from all walks of life who understand that there are sometimes things that you just cannot talk about to the people around you. They know that very often, with some time and space, people are able to find their own solution within themselves.


Specialist help for people who self-harm

The National Self-Harm Network

Website | Tel: 0800 622 6000 (7pm to 11pm)

A forum and resources for those who self-harm and their families, and for professionals who support them. Tips on what to do or say and what not to do or say if you are supporting someone who self-harms. Advice on the use of distractions if a person is trying not to self-harm.

Get Connected

Website | Tel: 080 8808 4994 (1pm to 11pm)

Offers help by telephone and email for young people (under 25) who self-harm.

The Mix


The Mix offers information and support to all the UK's 16-25 year-olds. It includes specific support and advice about self-harm.



Internet Self-Harm Support Community. It also provides support for any emotional problems, in addition to self-harm.


Support specifically designed for children and young people


Website | Tel: 0800 1111

If you are worried about anything, it could be something big or something small, don't bottle it up. It can really help to talk to someone. If there is something on your mind, Childline is here for you.


Website | Email: info@selfharm.co.uk

Website for young people aged 11 to 19 affected by self-harm.



YoungMinds is committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people. They have lots of information.


Other sources of support for young people

Big White Wall


A safe, online, anonymous service for people over the age of 16. Get the support of others who feel like you, 24/7, and learn ways to feel better and how to get on top of your own troubles.

C.A.L.L. Mental Health Helpline for Wales

Website | Tel: 0800 132 737

A 24/7 service offering free emotional support and information/literature on mental health and related matters to people in Wales. Text 'help' to 81066.

CALM - Campaign Against Living Miserably

Website | Tel: 0800 585858 (London: 0808 802 5858)

Offers help for men of any age who are down or in crisis, via a helpline and webchat open seven days a week, 5pm- midnight, as well as a website.

Depression UK

Website |  Email: info@depressionuk.org

A national mutual support group for people suffering from depression.


Website | Infoline: 0300 123 3393 (Mon-Fri 9am - 6pm) | Email: info@mind.org.uk

Provides information in a range of topics including types of mental distress, where to get help and advocacy. They are able to provide details of help and support for people in their own area.

National Debtline

Website | Tel: 0808 808 4000

Free confidential and independent advice on how to deal with debt problems.


Website | SANEline: 0845 767 8000 (6pm - 11pm)

Emotional support and specialist information to anyone affected by mental illness, including families, friends and carers. SANE offers 1:1 support via helpline and email services and peer support via an online Support Forum where people share their feelings and experiences of mental illness, as well as exchanging information about treatment and support options.


Website | Freephone: 0800 138 1111

Free online support service providing anonymous and practical advice about money matters and debt.

Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS)

Website | Helpline: 0844 561 6855 (9am - 9pm daily)

Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide exist to meet the needs and break the isolation experienced by those bereaved by suicide.

Talk to Frank

Website | Tel: 0800 77 66 00

A 24/7 service offering free and confidential telephone advice and information for anyone who is concerned, or has questions, about drugs.

Specific Support for people living in Scotland

Breathing Space Tel: 0800 83 85 87 open 24/7, at weekends (6pm Fri - 6am Mon), 2am on Mon - Thurs. Phone and web-based service for people in Scotland experiencing low mood, depression or anxiety.

CRUSE Bereavement Care Scotland Tel: 0845 600 2227.

NHS24 Tel: 08454 24 24 24. Open 24/7 356 days a year.

SAMH - Scottish Association for Mental Health Tel: 0800 917 3466. Email: info@samh.org.uk. Information on how and where to find support, including help in your own area.

"I was about 14 when it happened. I had a good family, did well at school and had group of good friends. Life had been good to me although my mum said I could not handle stress. I would be a bag of nerves before exams, was scared of failing and could not face if someone was unwell.

Uncle Rob’s death a year back in the accident was just too much. I knew I would feel upset for a long time. But then I didn’t feel upset. It was strange. I thought people were doing strange things to me like controlling me through radio signals. I felt I had lost control of myself and even felt my body was changing in a strange sort of way… not just the puberty. And then I could not face school, I was swearing, felt muddled in my head.

My learning mentor got worried and spoke to my mum, who had noticed my strange behaviour. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t be bothered about going out. I didn’t like the idea of seeing a psychiatrist from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service and I thought they would judge me. But it was very different. She seemed to know and understand how I felt, what I thought. I felt relieved. She even said I was not going to be locked away in a hospital. It was just an illness for which I needed to take medication for few months or year.

She then introduced me to Kay, a worker from Early Intervention Psychosis team. Kay explained to me and my family all about psychosis, what we could to keep me well. She was there when I felt I was losing it before my exams. It’s nearly a year now. I am like any other 16 year old, going to school, with friends etc... I take my meds and staying away from drugs and alcohol."


Main author: Dr Alys Cole-King

© August 2015. Due for review: August 2018. Royal College of Psychiatrists.

This leaflet reflects the best available evidence available at the time of writing.

Published: Aug 2015

Review due: Aug 2018

© Royal College of Psychiatrists