If your friend’s behavior poses a danger to themselves or others, you need to call 713-348-6000 for emergency help immediately.
When should I be concerned?
Some good guidelines for assessing the potential seriousness of your friend’s situation are checking the intensity, frequency, and duration of their symptoms. If any or all of these factors are significant, then your friend needs to get help. In general, if your friend displays behaviors that interfere with their health and wellbeing, it may be a cause for concern. For instance, if your friend displays marked changes in some or any of the following, such as:
- Social behavior,
- Personal hygiene,
- Study or work habits,
- Extreme mood swings,
- Eating or drinking habits,
then their behaviors are probably a cause of concern, and you should consult someone from the Counseling Center or college personnel team about it. When in doubt about whether or not your friend’s behaviors are symptomatic of more serious health issues, don’t hesitate to get help or talk to someone about it.
If your friend’s mental or physical health is in danger, then the problem is out of your scope of ability to deal with, then you need to tell someone, even if your friend’s asked you not to. It’s more important to save your friend’s life then to keep a potentially life-threatening secret for them.
How do I talk to my friend about getting help?
Telling a friend that you think they need to seek professional help can be really hard. You can’t “make” your friend get professional treatment, but through your approach to talking with them, you can hopefully convince them to do so, or at least seek further advice from a trusted adult. Some tips for approaching the conversation:
- Set aside a time to talk – don’t throw them off guard by bringing up your concerns, unless urgent, during an inconvenient time, like the middle of an incredibly stressful week. Find a time that you’re both free and ask to chat with them. Make sure the space in which you talk is private.
- Explain why you’re concerned. Talk about any marked changes in behavior that you’ve noticed. Explain why these behaviour changes concern you for their health wellbeing. Depending on the situation, you may suggest examples of times when a behavioural change affected their ability to function or cope with everyday life. Relate those behaviors which have triggered your concern by asking if he/she knows what could be contributing to these problems, or if they’ve been figuring out ways to cope with the problem (s). If your friend is utilizing friends as a means to take care of themselves then that is a sign you, as a friend, should say/do something to help.
- Listen – listen attentively and try to see the situation from their perspective. If it seems that a referral to the Counseling Center is appropriate, suggest that they make an appointment after listening to the story and expressing your concern.
- Don’t judge – be careful not to judge your friend’s reasons for their behavioral changes or symptoms. They need your support, and critiquing something about which you probably don’t know the whole story may only exacerbate the problem and make them less likely to reach out for help. If they brush off your concerns, acknowledge their perspective while adding that help is available.
- Suggest resources – if they’ve already started to try to figure out and cope with what’s wrong, encourage their proactive stance and suggest that they talk to someone from the Counseling Center, or at least confide in an RHA, RA, or other trusted member of the college personnel team for more insights about where they should go from here. Offer to accompany them anywhere that they need to go to seek help.
- Let them know that you’re here for them – if they need help making an appointment with the counseling center, walking to their first appointment, or talking to a trusted adult, then let them know you can be there with them if they need more support.
- If you’re unsure or uncomfortable with approaching the situation, consider calling the Counseling Center or talking with a member of your college personnel team. Based on your specific situation, they can offer advice about how best to approach talking to your friend.
- Check our Rice's Campus Resources Brochure. At Rice, faculty and staff work hard to help students. There is a network of support on campus and many students take advantage of those resources. If you're not sure where to go to get a question answered or to get help, just say something. We want to hear from you.
Please click here to download the brochure. This guide is not a comprehensive list of resources, but is a good place to start looking for ways to get help.
What happens when my friend goes to a counselor?
For more information on what happens when your friend goes to see a counselor, check out our Counselor FAQ page.
Check in with your friend regularly to see how they’re doing. Sometimes, having someone you trust to confide in and support during therapy/treatment is invaluable. However, keep in mind that it’s your friend’s choice whether or not he/she shares details about ongoing therapy or treatment with you. Regardless, let them know that you’re there for them. If symptoms recur, or intensify, then urge your friend to seek an adjustment in treatment, or get help.