How to Help a Friend
Introduction: How Can You Help?
Do you have a friend whose attitude has changed, has major mode swings or seems to be distancing themselves? Its common for students to feel stress or overwhelmed in their college life at some point. Feeling home sick, family fueds, relationship issues, procrastination, pressure from exams and grades, trying to find a job, and/or feeling alone are just a few of common experiences that students go through in college. The Counseling Center can help you manage these issues. However, we understand that it can be difficult for your friend to come into the Counseling Center to talk about what they are feeling.
In many cases, its easier to express anger, embarressment, depression or even thoughts of suicide to someone close. As a friend, your best support would be to refer them to the counseling center. Be mindful that any situation that you feel may be an emergency, please call 911. Its better to be safe and make sure your friend has the help they need.
What Signs Indicate That I should Refer My Friend to the Counseling Center?
The following signs may indicate a need to refer your friend to the Counseling Center:
- Abrupt/radical changes in behavior, including a dramatic decrease in academic functioning
- Isolation from others
- Noticeable changes in mood, such as depression, apathy, or irritability
- Poor attendance in classes
- Sudden outbursts of anger
- Attention/memory difficulties
- Alcohol/drug abuse
- Marked change in personal hygiene/appearance
- Inappropriate crying
- Bizarre statements or behavior
- Suicidal statements
How Do I Talk With My Friend About Going to the Counseling Center?
Although it may feel intrusive or awkward to address these personal issues with your friend, more often than not he/she will appreciate your efforts in the long run. Tell the them you would like to speak with them about concerns you have, and ask your friend to meet with you during lunch or a favorite activity together. In the course of sharing your concern do not attempt to be the counselor but do provide information and options regarding available campus and community resources.
Guidelines for Interacting with My Friend
- Be mindful of the student’s privacy.
- Listen carefully; show concern and interest.
- Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.
- Suggest the Counseling Center as a resource and discuss this with the student. Offer a Counseling Center brochure.
- Explain to the student that counseling and referral services at the Center are confidential. Let the student know that the Counseling Center staff will not discuss their concerns with anyone (not even you) without their written permission.
- If the student resists help and you are still worried, contact the Counseling Center to discuss your concerns.
How Do I Make a Referral to the Counseling Center?
- Provide your friend with the Counseling Center’s phone number: 355-8270 or direct him/her to our website for further information: www.counseling.msu.edu.
- Consider having your friend call the Counseling Center from your dorm room or place of residence.
- Follow up with your friend by inquiring as to whether she/he followed through with their appointment and how she/he felt about the session.
Can I Call the Counseling Center and Make the Appointment on my Friend’s Behalf?
We are unable to allow anyone other than the student to make an appointment at the Counseling Center. You can be most helpful by encouraging your friend to make an appointment and/or by allowing him/her to call the Counseling Center from your home.
What Should I Do if My Friend is in Distress and Immediate Attention is Needed?
- Let your friend know that they should call the Counseling Center at 355-8270 and identify her/himself as needing immediate assistance. A phone or in-person consultation will occur the same day.
- If you wish to be certain your friend makes the session, call the Counseling Center while he/she is in your residence.
- You can even walk with your friend to the Counseling Center together and/or wait while they meet with a counselor.
- If you consider the situation to be an emergency, dial 911 before contacting the Counseling Center. Do not delay attending to safety issues.
The Counseling Center welcomes your calls (355-8270) at any time to consult with us regarding your concerns about your students. Counseling Center staff can offer suggestions and ideas about referral options, resources, and other ways to address your concerns.