Helping A Friend in Distress

If someone you know is having a hard time or seems to be struggling with mental health concerns, show your support and let them know you care.  You can do this through your words, your actions, or another way that conveys how you feel.  The most important thing is to let them know you are there and want to be supportive.

You may be one of the first people to notice that something is wrong, and your expression of interest and concern may be critical in helping them regain emotional stability.  The most valuable support you can provide is just being there to talk and listen.  Making time to call, text, or spend time together can make a big difference.

Signs of Possible Distress

  •  Marked change in performance or behavior 
  •  Trouble eating and/or sleeping
  •  Disruptive behavior
  •  Undue aggressiveness
  •  Exaggerated emotional response that is disproportionate to the situation
  •  Depressed or lethargic mood
  •  Hyperactivity or very rapid speech
  •  Marked change in personal hygiene
  •  Excessive confusion
  •  Dramatic weight loss or gain
  •  Dependency (e.g., individual spends an inordinate amount of time around you)
  •  Behavior indicating loss of contact with reality
  •  Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
  •  References to suicide
  •  References to homicide or assault
  •  Isolation from friends, family, or classmates
  •  Giving away personal or prized possessions
  •  Preparing for death by making a will and final arrangements


The DO's

  • DO trust your intuition.
  • DO speak with your friend privately.
  • DO let him/her know you are concerned about his/her welfare.
  • DO express your concern directly, in non-judgmental terms.
  • DO tell him/her that you are willing to help.
  • DO listen carefully to what he/she is upset about; use active listening.
  • DO acknowledge the feelings of your friend.
  • DO help him/her explore options.
  • DO point out that help is available, and that seeking help is a sign of strength and courage, rather than weakness or failure.
  • DO suggest resources.
  • DO maintain clear and consistent boundaries and expectations.
  • DO recognize your limits.
  • DO enlist the help of others as appropriate.

The DON’Ts

  • DON’T ignore the unusual behavior.
  • DON’T minimize the situation.
  • DON’T ignore warning signs about the individual’s safety or the safety of others.
  • DON’T promise confidentiality.
  • DON’T judge or criticize.
  • DON’T make the problem your own.
  • DON’T involve yourself beyond the limits of your time, skill, or emotional well-being.
  • DON’T try to solve the problem on your own.

Safety Concerns

If the person is at risk of harming themselves or someone else, or if you feel threatened or endangered, CALL 911!

In some situations, if you feel that your friend is at risk of harming themselves, taking their life, or if you are unsure about the safety of your friend or others, you can contact Kent State Police Services for a "wellness check."  Kent State Police Services are trained in mental health crisis intervention and may have the student transported to the nearest emergency department or to Coleman Access for an emergency evaluation, if appropriate.

Local Resources


911 [Emergency]
330-672-2212 [Non-Emergency]
Police Services


Coleman Health Services


Townhall II Helpline


Portage County Rape Crisis Center

National Resources


Text 4HOPE to 741741


Call or Text 988


Trevor Lifeline

Taking Care of Yourself

“I’m trying to support my friend but I’m feeling overwhelmed.”

Some people reach the point where, instead of being a friend, they feel they've become more of a caretaker. You may feel responsible for your friend and worry about what would happen if you weren't around. It can be painful and difficult - on both sides - to admit that this is happening, but there are things you can do to look after yourself and rebalance the friendship. For example:

  • Take a break if you need to – some time to yourself can help you feel refreshed.
  • Set clear boundaries to the support you can give.  Setting boundaries doesn’t mean you’re rejecting someone – it just means you’re being realistic about what you can and can’t do.
  • Share your role with others, if you can.  Knowing other people are there to support your friend can take the pressure off you.
  • Talk about how you’re feeling.  Be careful how much you share about the friend you’re supporting but talking about your feelings can help you feel supported too.
  • And remember you don’t have to solve their problems on your own.  Encourage your friend to reach out to CAPS or other offices on campus for additional support.