Help a friend

How to help if you're concerned about a friend who is feeling hopeless or thinking of harming themselves.

Crisis support 24/7

If you’re in British Columbia

Get help if you or someone else is in immediate danger, or at risk of harming yourself or others.

  • Crisis Centre BC
    If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or at risk of harm, call or chat online with a crisis responder any time.
  • UBC Student Assistance Program (SAP) by Aspiria
    Call toll-free 1 833 590 1328
    If you're in immediate need of help, the SAP intake counsellor can provide “in-the-moment support”.

If you’re outside of British Columbia, but in Canada

Get help if you or someone else is in immediate danger, or at risk of harming yourself or others.

  • CALL 911 or visit your nearest emergency room.
  • Crisis Services Canada
    If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or at risk of harm, call or chat online with a crisis responder any time.
  • UBC Student Assistance Program (SAP) by Aspiria
    Call toll-free 1 833 590 1328
    If you're in immediate need of help, the SAP intake counsellor can provide “in-the-moment support”.

If you’re Outside of Canada

  • Call your local emergency number or visit your nearest emergency room.
  • UBC Student Assistance Program (SAP) by Aspiria
    • If you are within North America, call toll-free 1 833 590 1328
    • If you are outside of North America, call collect or reverse charge 1 604 757 9734

    If you're in immediate need of help, the SAP intake counsellor can provide “in-the-moment support”.

What to say and do

Talk 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.

Let your friend or family member know that you support them

Let them know that they are not alone. Remember that each person’s experience is different, so don’t simplify the problem by thinking about it in the same way as your own experience.

Encourage your friend or family member to see a healthcare professional

Offer to go with them to the appointment or the doctor’s office. If your friend or family member is uncomfortable or unable to communicate the problem, offer to do it for them.

On campus support

Student Health Service
During office hours, visit a doctor or nurse for help with mental health concerns or mental illness.

Urgent Care at UBC Hospital
Visit a doctor for help with urgent mental health and safety concerns. Open until 10pm.

Off campus support

VGH Access & Assessment Centre
Visit in person or call for mental health and substance use services. Open 7:30 am to 11:00 pm.

Support outside of BC

Students who are outside of British Columbia should go to their nearest hospital or call 911 or their local emergency services number.

Make sure to communicate that getting help is not weak

Many people will deny that they need help and feel that they should be able to cope on their own. This is a false and harmful belief; true strength is admitting that you need help.

Attend Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) training

Become a Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) gatekeeper by attending a course.

Learn how to reach out to a friend, peer, student, family member, or colleague who may be experiencing suicidality.

Register for QPR training

Other ways to help a friend

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.

Some 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

If you notice changes in your friend, it may be time to start a conversation with them.

Talk to the person you're concerned about

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

To learn more about skills to help a friend, you can take the How to Help a Friend module in the online wellness course on canvas.

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