Helping a Distressed Friend
Signs that a friend may be in distress include:
- S/he is missing a lot of classes or assignments.
- S/he seems depressed.
- S/he seems to have become irritable, restless, or moody.
- S/he is not participating in social activities like he/she used to.
- S/he is behaving in a way that is bizarre or dangerous.
- S/he seems to have difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- S/he seems to be worrying a lot more than usual.
- Her/his appearance becomes disheveled.
Consider: “Why are you concerned?
- Is your friend an immediate danger to themselves or others? (call 911)
- Is the problem behavior undermining your friend’s success in life?
- Is their behavior causing you inconvenience? (e.g. your friend comes home drunk and disrupting your sleep or studying)
- It’s important to be honest with yourself about why you are concerned.
What you can do
- Consider why you might want to be involved
- Consider how much you are willing to be involved.
- Be prepared that your friend may not be ready to hear you or accept your help.
- Sometimes, what you see as a possible problem may not be apparent to them.
- If the friend perceives you as being judgmental, they may reject your concerns
- On the other hand, sometimes just showing your concern can help a friend feel better.
If you decide to approach a friend
- See the friend privately, to lessen the chance of embarrassment or defensiveness.
- Openly acknowledge your concern.
- Describe clearly what you observe that leads you to think your friend may be having difficulties. Be honest, specific, and non-judgmental.
- Listen carefully to what seems to be troubling your friend
- Try to see things from his/her point of view without agreeing or disagreeing.
- Help your friend think of ways s/he want to deal with the problem.
- Refer to professional help when appropriate.
- Your role is to help your friend address the concern, not solve the problem for them