Help A Friend

If you are concerned about a friend and fellow student, the University of Kentucky Counseling Center: Consultation and Psychological Services' (UKCC) professional staff is available to help.  We usually do consultations by phone but can also meet in-person if this is requested. We can provide information to you regarding how to make an effective referral, how to intervene or bring up your concerns with your peer, and help you figure out whether your concern seems warranted.

Situations in which a consultation can be helpful include:

  • When you are alarmed by a peer's behavior or words (for example, if a student is feeling very sad or anxious or threatens to hurt themselves or someone else);
  • When you hear that a peer has not been attending class due to depression or personal problems;
  • When you are wondering how to intervene with a peer who is making risky choices with alcohol or other substances;
  • When you are worried that someone may have an eating disorder;
  • When a peer seems to be having a difficult time getting over a relationship breakup;
  • When you have read something in an assignment that raises your concern about a peer.

The consultation may be about how you can personally respond or intervene with the peer and/or how to make a successful referral to counseling.

Tips for being supportive:

  • The major way to support a peer is to listen and try to be nonjudgmental.
  • Just being present even when there is silence is also helpful.
  • You want to convey that you care and that you are willing to listen.
  • You want to be encouraging and hopeful but not minimizing.
  • Share similar experiences or feelings but do not then take the spotlight.
  • Avoid promising total secrecy in case you need to reveal something to keep the student safe but be reassuring that you will respect the student's privacy.
  • Be clear that there are limits to your support and that professional help is available.
  • Normalize that it is a positive sign to seek help when you need it.
  • Ask if the student is thinking about harming themselves if you are concerned that they are thinking this.
  • Follow up and find out how the student is doing.

To learn other signs and tips on how to talk with a friend, check out Seize the Awkward