Helping a Friend

Helping a friend can be a really hard thing to do, especially when they are struggling. It’s tough to know what questions to ask or how to be supportive. You don’t have to do it alone. Please do not hesitate to contact Student Wellness for assistance or resources if you know someone who is struggling. Call us today at 619-260-4655. If the situation is life threatening, please call Public Safety at 619-260-2222.

Signs that a Friend May Need Help:

  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Change in eating habits
  • Increased withdrawal from friends or loved ones
  • Excessive sadness, anxiety or worry
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyed activities
  • Lack of motivation
  • Excessive alcohol or drug use
  • Decline in academic performance;
    excessively missing classes
  • Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself
  • Hopeless feelings and saying they have no reason to live
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Mood swings, irritability and frequent arguments and conflicts
  • Experienced sexual violence
  • Change in the tone/frequency of status updates and posts online for example: 
    • Using hopeless language: “I feel like I’m in a black hole” or “I don’t want to get out of bed…ever.”
    • Insomnia posts: “4am again and no sleep.”
    • Withdrawal from daily activities: “Missed class again this morning, I’m such a flake!”
    • Use of negative emoticons that suggest someone is feeling down or may be thinking about doing something to harm themselves:
      Emoji Smiley-17 Emoji Smiley-20 Emoji Smiley-45 Emoji Smiley-107 Emoji Smiley-174 Emoji Objects-76
    • Use of concerning hashtags: #whenimgone #lonely #noonecares #hatemyself #sad #givingup
    • Following activity: On both Facebook and Instagram, you can check out the accounts and posts your friends are following. If you notice a friend liking or following feeds or posts that are worrisome to you, trust your instincts and reach out. Help get them the help they need.

**Please note this list is not comprehensive. If you are concerned about a friend, notice someone posting distressing content online, detect a change from their usual behavior, it may be a signal that they need help. Trust your instincts! If something doesn’t feel right, act on it!

How to Talk to a Friend You are Concerned About:

  1. Talk to your friend in private. Without judging your friend, express how you feel and express your concern. Be specific but only talk about your concerns. If other Talk with a friendfriends have expressed concern, encourage them to talk to your friend alone as well. You want your friend to feel supported but sometimes too many people can feel overwhelming.
    • “I have noticed that you have not been going to class and I am worried about how sad you have seemed lately.”
    • “The text you sent me about not being able to take it anymore really worried me. What is going on? I really want to understand.”
  2. Say Something. Try to give your friend your undivided attention and express your concerns. Be honest and direct.  It shows you care!
  3. Listen carefully and with sensitivity.  After you have expressed your feelings, give your friend time to talk. Listen in an open minded and nonjudgmental way.Listen carefully
  4. Do not promise to keep what is said a secret. If your friend told you she/he were having suicidal thoughts, thinking of harming them self or others, or has been sexually assaulted, you need to tell someone.
    • Ask your friend if there is someone the two of you could call together. Depending on the situation this may be a family member, RA, Resident or University Minister, Wellness Professional or CARE Advocate. If your friend cannot think of anyone, does not want you to contact anyone, or is resistant to getting help, you may need to seek help anyway in order to make sure your friend is safe.   
  5. Communicate that it takes courage and strength to seek support. Asking for help or admitting that you need support is never a sign of weakness.Make a referral to USD Student Wellness
  6. Make a referral to Student Wellness. Discuss the services provided by Student Wellness and let your friend know that USD Wellness Services are confidential and free for all students. No problem is too big or too small to get help!
    • “It really sounds like you are going through a lot right now and I am glad you said something to me. I really care about you and I will be here for you as your friend. I also want to make sure you get the support you need. How about we walk over to the Counseling Center together right now and talk with someone.”
  7. Stay in touch. If comfortable, let your friend know that you’ll be checking back later to see how things turned out.

How Student Wellness Can Help You and Your Friend:


Student Wellness provides free consultations to students who have concerns about a friend. Any of the Student Wellness offices (the Center for Health and Wellness Promotion, Counseling Center, Disability and Learning Difference Resource Center, Women’s Commons, or Student Health Center) can support and guide you in helping your friend. Helping others can be stressful and we want you to know that you are alone.

Referring friends to the Counseling Center:

If would like to refer your friend to the Counseling Center, please call 619-260-4655. The Counseling Center is a confidential resource open Monday – Friday 8:30am-5pm, with extended hours until 6pm on Wednesday during fall and spring semesters. The easiest way to secure an initial consultation is by making a same- or next-day appointment via the Wellness Portal. Students can also call or come by the Counseling Center to arrange for an appointment. You can even help your friend schedule their initial appointment if that is supportive to them.

Contact the USD Counseling CenterI need to talk with someone now and the Counseling Center is closed!

If you have an urgent matter or are having thoughts of suicide and the Counseling Center is closed, you can speak with a counselor after-hours by calling the Counseling Center at 619-260-4655 or by calling Public Safety at (619) 260-2222 and asking to speak with the counselor-on-call.