Helping a Friend

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY FRIEND NEEDS HELP? 

IS THIS AN EMERGENCY? 

Yes, if:

  • your friend is so impaired that they are at risk of harming themselves or someone else,
  • they are in emotional turmoil and confusion, not thinking clearly, not perceiving things clearly, or behaving bizarrely

Immediate action is required! See emergency for the next steps to take.

IT IS NOT AN EMERGENCY BUT I AM CONCERNED

If it is not an emergency, how do you know that help is really needed? Everyone gets distressed at times. When are normal friendship and gentle advice probably not enough?

More help is needed when your friend is

  • Withdrawing from friends or activities
  • Chronically missing classes
  • Major sleep or appetite change
  • Deteriorating hygiene and overall self-care
  • Declining academic performance
  • Irritability; frequent arguments and conflicts
  • Binge drinking or drug use
  • Self-injurious behavior
  • Excessive worry, anxiety, fear, or panic
  • Feelings of hopeless, worthlessness, and/or thoughts of suicide
  • Loss of energy, motivation, interests
  • Risky sexual activity
  • Mood swings
  • Expression of thoughts about dying or suicide

WHAT CAN I DO?

Speak up.  Find or make a time, and express your concerns. It shows you care!

Use “I” statements.  Without judging your friend, express how you feel. Be specific:  “I’m concerned about your drinking lately.”  “I’m worried about how sad you seem.”  “I want to be able to offer you my support.”

Listen.  Once you’ve expressed your feelings, encourage your friend to talk. Then really listen.

Clarify.  Reflect back what you are hearing. Help clarify the problem.

Offer your support.  For now and in the future.

Brainstorm.  Help your friend look for ways forward, and ways you can be helpful.

Help them expand their support network.  Urge your friend to talk to other friends and family, and to try some of the college’s resources. Counseling Services is the ideal place to start.

Don’t take it on alone.  You may not feel qualified to help your friend with their problems. Learn about resources on campus such as counseling, health services, mentoring, and spiritual guidance. Counseling Services can educate you about these resources, and guide you in helping your friend. And please consider talking with us about getting you some support. Helping others can be stressful.

Stay in touch.  Don’t speak up once and then let it drop. Even if your friend is not receptive at first, mention your concerns again.

HOW TO REFER A FRIEND TO COUNSELING SERVICES

If your friend continues to struggle or otherwise seems stuck, recommend that they “just try one visit” to Counseling Services and emphasize that services are confidential. It doesn’t commit them to counseling. They can just see how it feels, see what the counselor recommends, and then think about it. Tell them to check out our website. You might even offer to accompany them, if that would help.

HOW DO I REPORT A CONCERNING PERSON TO THE COLLEGE

For guidelines regarding reporting a concerning person go to the Office of the Dean of Students website,

/about/offices/college_life/care/submit-a-concern/?