How to Help a Friend

One of the greatest resources for dealing with pain is feeling and believing that other people care. Talk to someone. Listen.

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Learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide and mental health crisis and how to listen, reflect and connect someone to help.


Be Informed. Be Prepared. Reach out to your friend, connect with them. 

Never be afraid to give your friend a call, pay a visit, or send them a message to let them know you care, and offer to connect them with extra support. Don’t be worried about upsetting your friend. Helping your friend takes courage—but it is worth the effort!

Are you concerned about a friend? 

Friends are usually the first to notice when someone is sad, worried, withdrawn, or irritable. Maybe your friend stopped going to class, or is engaging in unhealthy behaviors. Help your friend heal by expressing your concern and encouraging them to seek help. 

  • State your concern. Objectively describe what you observe in your friend, and express your concern. 
  • Inquire. Ask your friend what is wrong or how you can help. 
  • Listen. Listen without judgement. Try not to agree or disagree with their behavior, simply listen to them. 
  • Empathize. Communicate your understanding. 
  • Offer them hope. Encourage them to keep talking, and to reach out to others who care about them. 
  • Suggest that they visit Counseling Services. Remind them that the first visit is free and confidential. 

What do you do if a friend is reluctant? 

Simply tell your friend that you care about them. Acknowledge and discuss your friend's concerns about seeking help. Remain friendly and tell them that you are available to help them in the future. Your friend may be defensive or ambivalent. Understand that your friend's defensiveness may be based on their feelings and is not directed at you. Look for signs that your friend is reaching out for help. It can be a challenge to help a friend with a mental health or substance problem. Don't be discouraged. Remember that it is up to your friend to make a change, and you can't do it for him or her. Keep in mind that it is not your fault. You may want to talk to a supportive adult. 

How else can you help? 

Don't be silent. If you feel overwhelmed, encourage your friend to speak to someone in a professional role on campus. Know that you don't have to deal with a situation on your own. If you are concerned about someone you can call counseling services and consult with a professional.  

Faculty and Staff Resources 

As members of the NAU campus community, we are all committed to not only the academic success of our students, but also their well-being. It is highly encouraged that you complete a free 45 minute interactive online simulation that will help you identify students experiencing high levels of distress, approach and discuss your concern with a student in distress, and make an effective referral to support services. 

To take the course, follow the instructions below:

Other resources for Faculty and Staff:
  • Request a 60-minute FREE StressLess presentation from Health Promotion 
  • Request a outreach presentation from Counseling Services 
  • Take action and join the Suicide Prevention Task Force. Contact Kasondra McCracken to find out more.