Supporting Friends and Loved Ones

How to help someone who is distressed

Talk to them in private

Make sure you are bringing this up at an appropriate time where others aren’t listening in. Bringing up sensitive topics around a group of people creates awkward situations and may prevent the person you are talking to from opening up.

Listen and reflect

It is important to listen and truly hear what your friend or loved one is saying. We often fall into the trap of offering advice. Instead, use reflection statements such as “It sounds like you...” to allow them to correct misconceptions and keep the conversation going.

Be direct, but not judgmental

Share what observable behaviors you have seen and why it worries you. Use “I statements” to avoid blaming them or making assumptions. For example, “I have noticed you have been missing class lately and you aren’t as willing to hang out with friends. I am worried about you and want to make sure you are okay.”

Make a referral

Encourage them to seek counseling if appropriate. Offer to go with them or help them set up an appointment. If they do not want to seek help, be sure to follow up and check in with them again at a later time. If you suspect that someone may be a danger to themselves or others but are not certain, you can call 530-752-0871 for a Mental Health Crisis Consultation with Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS) during business hours. You can also submit OSSJA's Public Student Support Referral form to refer a student to a case manager.

If someone reveals that they are a danger to themselves or others…

Call 911, if you, or anyone else, is experiencing an emergency.

Take care of yourself

  • Be aware of your own needs and seek support for yourself in navigating these situations.
  • Maintain and respect healthy boundaries. Make sure you are communicating these boundaries to others and continue to check in with yourself.
  • Remember, you cannot decide for someone that they want help or want to change. When they are ready, be there to support them in finding the appropriate resources.