Helping a Friend

Sometimes a friend will be going through a tough time, and you may want to help. It is generally helpful to approach this student in a concerned, caring, and non-judgmental way. Tell the person specifically why you are concerned (e.g., "I am concerned about you because you are worried so much and have not been able to sleep for three days"). You can recommend that the person make an appointment to speak with a Counselor in the Counseling Center.

Frequently, this person will be relieved that someone has noticed their distress. If this person is willing, you can help them call the counseling center, and even accompany them to the first appointment if they want you to be there.

Other times the person might state that they are not interested in talking to someone at this time. Sometimes this is because they may feel uncomfortable talking with a Counselor, or may be scared to talk about a problem because it feels overwhelming. They may minimize the problem or think the Counseling Center cannot be of assistance. If it is not an emergency situation, try to be open to the fact that the person may need some time to choose to talk to someone.


DO call 911 or Public Safety if you have immediate concerns for student’s safety or the safety of others

DO speak to the individual privately in a non-judgmental fashion

DO let the student know you are concerned for their welfare

DO use active Listening Skills

DO Validate and Explore Options

DO remind help is available and a signal of strength

DO maintain clear and consistent boundaries

DO refer individual to appropriate campus or community resource

DO acknowledge and discuss the student's fears and concerns about seeking a consultation from a mental health professional

DO point out that a situation does not have to reach crisis proportions for the student to benefit from professional help



DON’T ignore unusual behavior or minimize their situation

DON’T ignore warning signs about individual’s safety or the safety of others

DON’T promise confidentiality

DON’T judge or criticize

DON’T make the problem your own

DON’T involve yourself beyond the limits of your time, skill, or emotional well-being

DON’T make promises regarding services

DON’T forget to call Counseling Services to receive your own support and guidance in helping our students receive effective treatment

DON’T pathologize a student's experience. All people experience negative emotions and experience trying periods in their life

DON’T promise specific treatment to the student.


What next?

What if your friend does not want to go to the Counseling Center? As mentioned, if it is not an emergency or crisis situation, be patient, supportive and friendly. You may also consult with one of the Counselors about how to help this person. Your request for assistance will be kept confidential in accordance with the Counseling Center's policies on confidentiality.

ULifeline is available for free information, screening, and ideas on ways to help friends. In addition, there are many other resources on-line that can provide additional information about helping others. Check out the self-help resources page for links to education and assessment tools for a variety of concerns college students often face. You can share this information with your friend and search the sites together.

In rare situations, if you feel that a friend or loved one is at risk to harm themselves or others or you are unsure about their safety, you can contact Public Safety if you are on campus. Refer to the Mental Health Crisis/Emergency Tab for more information. If the student of concern is off campus, please do one of the following:

  • Call 911
  • Go to your nearest emergency room
  • Call Mental Health Delegate/Mobile Crisis in your community (Mental Health Delegate of Philadelphia at 215-685-6440)
  • If on campus, you can Call Holy Family Public Safety at 267-341-3333 to assist you in obtaining emergency mental health assistance.
  • Call or Text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255)/ Text “Home” to 741-741. This service is available 24/7.


What if the person is feeling really upset, depressed, or anxious, but it is not an emergency?

There are several things individuals can do in times of great distress to relieve some of this distress such as:

  • Journal or write down your thoughts in any creative way you can think of such as poetry, music lyrics, etc.
  • Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or adult role model
  • Practice relaxation techniques or meditate (check out our self-help link!)
  • Listen to soothing music or watch a comforting or funny movie
  • Exercise or do anything active such as take a walk or play a sport
  • Color, draw, craft, paint, etc.
  • Distract yourself with any healthy and soothing activity you can think of

If the person would like to speak with a counselor, make an appointment with the Counseling Center. If they are in a high level of distress and want to speak to someone right away, they can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They will be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in their area, anytime 24/7. If you would rather speak to someone online, text the word “Home” to 741741. Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information.


What Happens once a student books an appointment with the Counseling?

A student who comes to the Counseling Center will meet with one of the Counselors for an initial intake assessment session in which the Counselor and the student will begin to determine what help is needed and how best to assist the student. This may be simply one visit at the Counseling Center, counseling at the Counseling Center, referral to another campus office, or possibly an off-campus referral for other types of intervention or more specialized longer-term treatment.