Helping a friend

There are ways to help a friend who may be in distress.

If you need urgent help

Helping a friend in crisis

Recognize signs that your friend may need support.

Being able to recognize when your friend is struggling with something serious and when to offer help is important.

You may notice your friend's behaviour, feelings, or thoughts change drastically or very subtly. If you notice changes in your friend, it may be time to start a conversation with them.

Signs your friend may need some support:

  • They are not enjoying activities as much.
  • They seem distracted or have trouble focusing.
  • They usually worry about things that don’t seem to be a big deal to others.
  • They have a change in their eating habits - eating more or eating less than usual.
  • They are typically tired or mention they don't sleep well.
  • They are drinking or using substances more often.
  • They are typically sad and focus on the negatives.
  • They are spending more time alone and are isolating themselves.

Reach out to the person you're concerned about.

Most people who feel suicidal show warning signs. They want and need help.

It’s okay to ask someone if they are thinking about suicide. Asking about suicide and talking about difficult feelings doesn’t make someone more likely to harm themselves. When reaching out you should:

  • Listen actively.
  • Respond with empathy and validate their feelings. They are not alone and you are there for them.
  • Ask open-ended questions to help your friend understand their situation.
  • Discuss self-care.
  • Identify key next steps, if needed. You can call a service on the phone with them or offer to go with them. You can look through resources together.

Find more tips and techniques in the How to Help a Friend module in the online Wellness Centre Canvas course.

If you are a student staff or student leader, your program supervisor or any professional staff or faculty member can be a resource for you if you’re concerned about another student. Reach out to a staff member if you need support with helping others.

QPR Suicide Prevention Training

You may want to be trained to help others in distress. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer, three steps anyone can learn to help prevent suicide.

The two-hour training will teach you how to: 

  • Recognize suicide warning signs
  • Approach someone who may be at risk
  • Persuade the person to seek appropriate health services
  • Connect the person to resources that will help resolve crises

Learn more