Help a friend

It’s easy to doubt your judgment about whether someone needs help, especially if the person you’re worried about denies that anything is wrong. It's always better to do or say something if you're concerned.

Recognize the signs and symptoms of distress

Stated need for help

The person you are concerned about may communicate the need for help directly. It's important to listen not only to what is being said, but also how it is being said (e.g., tone of voice, expressions, gestures).

References to suicide

Regardless of the circumstances or context, anyone who makes a reference to committing suicide should be considered in need of immediate help.

Marked changes in mood or behaviour

Actions that are inconsistent with their normal behaviour may indicate that they are experiencing psychological distress.

Difficulties communicating and/or apparent distortions of reality

Communication difficulties and apparent distortions of reality may indicate a more severe psychological difficulty that requires professional assessment and treatment.

Harm to or from others

Behaviours that pose a threat to other students, staff, or faculty members must be immediately addressed.

Traumatic changes in personal relationships

Someone who is experiencing a traumatic change in a personal relationship or interpersonal difficulties may need assistance to cope effectively.

Drug or alcohol misuse

Drug misuse or drug dependence is almost always indicative of psychological difficulties.

Disordered eating

In the case of disordered eating such as excessive dieting, uncontrolled binge eating, or induced vomiting after eating, professional treatment should be accessed as soon as possible.

Talk to the person you're concerned about

  • Talk to your friend about your concerns and show your support in a non-judgmental way.

  • Let the person know you support them, that they are not alone, and that you have had difficulties too. Avoid simplifying the problem by looking through the lens of your own experience.

  • Encourage the person to see a health care professional and offer to come to the appointment with them. If they are uncomfortable or unable to communicate the problem, offer to do it with them.

  • Communicate that getting help is not weak. Many people will deny that they need help, believing that they should be able to cope on their own, but this is a false and harmful belief; true strength is admitting when you need help.

Help prevent suicide: Reach out

You may be concerned that someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts. You may be thinking about suicide yourself. You are not alone. The most important thing you can do is reach out to give or get help.

Learn more about suicide prevention

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Get support at UBC