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For More Information, Contact:

RMU Counseling Center
412-397-5900 phone
412-397-5920 fax
Patrick Henry, Lower Level

Help A Friend

How to Help a Friend

Are you concerned about a friend that has mood swings, appears to be angry all of the time, worries all of the time, or seems to be distancing themselves from others?  Trying to reach out to a friend that is having a difficult time can be awkward and it is hard to know what to say and where to begin. Often, reaching out to a friend can be the first step in getting him/her the right treatment and your support and encouragement goes a long way.

Signs that a friend might be struggling:

Seeing the following things might indicate a need to encourage a friend to come to the Counseling Center:

  • Abrupt/drastic changes in behavior
  • Increasing isolation from others (refusing to leave the dorm, not talking to friends)
  • Noticeable changes in mood, such as depression, apathy (not caring about anything), or intense irritability
  • Poor attendance in classes, “giving up” on academics
  • Inability to function (can’t get up in the mornings, always seems overwhelmed)
  • Sudden outbursts of anger
  • Excessive drug or alcohol use
  • A painful break-up
  • Significant change in personal hygiene/appearance (not showering or changing clothes)
  • Inappropriate or frequent crying
  • Bizarre, violent, or irrational statements or behavior
  • Homicidal or Suicidal statements***
  • Panic attacks or extreme anxiety

How can I talk with my friend about going to the Counseling Center?

Although it may feel awkward to talk with a friend about these personal issues, more often than not he or she will appreciate that you cared enough to reach out to them.  Find a quiet, calm moment and tell them that you would like to talk with them.  Let them know you are worried about them and want to help. Try to listen, and be as accepting as possible. Remember, you don’t have to fix their problems for them, just help steer them to the right resources! Let them know that you want to support them while they are having a difficult time, but that you think it would be helpful for them to go to the Counseling Center.  If he or she refuses, keep trying in future conversations. Don’t give up!  A good resource on how to talk with someone who is thinking of suicide is from The Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

If your friend is in crisis:

1. Stay calm, and let your friend know that you feel they are in crisis.

2. Explain that you need some additional supports and call the Counseling Center at 412-397-5900. You can also stop by with them during business hours (Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM).

***Emergency crisis: Call university police immediately at 412-397-2424.

***Non-emergency crisis after hours: Tell a CA or call university police, and they will notify the Counseling Center.

3. The Counseling Center welcomes you to call or stop in for information, and we can offer suggestions about how to approach your friend.

More Information on Supporting a Friend in Need

Active Minds - Be a Friend [From the Beginning to Always]
Comprehensive resource on how to be there for a friend during every step of their journey with mental health issues. Includes info on active listening, what to watch for before a friend gets help, what to expect with different illnesses, veterans issues, how to be supportive when your friend is in counseling/the hospital/in recovery, and the importance of self-care.

Half of Us - Help a Friend
View videos of real-life stories and read tips on helping a friend who may be struggling.