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.


Watch Video: 100 Reasons to Stay

Video Accessibility Instructions:

These video instructions are located directy above a YouTube video. Hit the DOWN arrow key until you hear the words FLASH START. Once the screen reader is inside the FLASH OBJECT, hit the TAB key about 7 times until you hear PLAY BUTTON a second time. Hit the Spacebar key to play the video. You can then hit the Spacebar key again to pause the video. Feel free to hit TAB and TAB+SHIFT to listen to all the buttons in the FLASH OBJECT. Sometimes the PLAY button and the PAUSE button will be listed as an UNLABLED BUTTON.

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Friends are usually the first to notice when someone is sad, worried, withdrawn, or irritable.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.

Social Media

Don't ignore comments about suicide or self harm. You can reach out to site administrators to report comments on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Take the threat seriously, and treat an online comment the same way as you would in person. 

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. 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. 

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 an outreach presentation from Counseling Services 
  • Take action and join the Suicide Prevention Task Force. Contact Kasondra McCracken to find out more.