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Encouraging a Friend to Reach Out for HelpArticles
When is it time to help a friend reach out for help?
If you have a friend who is acting differently or showing signs that they are struggling emotionally, it can be hard to talk to them about or figure out what you should do to help. Here are some ways you can support a friend who is having a hard time:
• Learn about resources. Before talking to your friend, research the types of resources your campus offers for dealing with emotional concerns. Then, tell your friend about these options.
• Talk to a counselor. You can call your counseling center and ask the best ways to help your friend. This is especially important if your friend refuses to reach out.
• Don’t ignore what’s going on. Even if your friend doesn’t want help that doesn’t mean that you should ignore the problem – these situations rarely get better on their own. Avoid covering up for your friend if they miss a class or assignment or any other important commitment. If your friend has a problem with alcohol and excessive partying, don’t participate in these activities with them. This only enables the destructive behavior to continue.
• Tell someone. You might feel like you’re betraying your friend if you tell someone else about their problem, but this is especially critical if they seem to be getting worse or are expressing suicidal thoughts.
Tips for having a conversation with your friend:
• Listen and be compassionate. Pick a quiet place with no distractions to talk to your friend. Pay full attention to what they’re saying and reflect back what you hear. Try to put yourself in their situation. While you can’t fully understand what they’re experiencing, be open, listen carefully and let them know that they aren’t alone.
• Express your concern. Let your friend know that you’re concerned about them. Do this by using “I” statements, such as “I’ve been worried about your drinking lately.”
• Share your own struggles. So your friend doesn’t feel alone, share a time that you were struggling and needed help. It’s important for your friend to know that everyone struggles and seeking help doesn’t make them weak. Avoid telling your friend that you know best how to solve their problems based on your own expriences.
• Tell them their concerns are treatable. When a person is going through a terrible time, it’s often hard for them to see that they’ll eventually feel better. Communicate to your friend that by getting help they can get better. All mental illness is treatable.
If you think your friend is contemplating suicide, it’s important to act immediately. Take a minute to review the warning signs of suicide and what to do if you are concerned a friend is thinking about ending their life.