Helping A Friend in Distress | Psychological Services | Kent State University

Helping A Friend in Distress

If you feel your friend is in distress or if you are concerned that they may hurt or kill themselves, you can encourage them to call the office during regular business hours (330) 672-2487.

What is my role? How can I help?

You may be one of the first individuals to notice that something is wrong or that a friend is distressed.  Although emotional distress may be expected, especially during times of high stress, you may notice that your friend is acting out of character or in ways that are inconsistent with his/her previous behavior.  You may be a resource in times of trouble, and your expression of interest and concern may be critical in helping them regain emotional stability. 

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 DOs

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.

For non-urgent situations, encourage your friend to use the following resources:

Psychological Services, University Health Services
Phone: (330) 672-2487
Website: www.kent.edu/psych


In the event of a crisis or emergency, and you are unsure about the safety of your friend, consider the following:

Kent State University Police Services

Phone: 911 [Emergency]
Phone: 330-672-2212 [Non-Emergency]
Website: www.kent.edu/publicsafety/police-services

University Health Services Nurse Line

Phone: 330-672-2326

Coleman Access Services

Phone: 330-296-3555
Website: www.coleman-access.com

Townhall II Helpline

Phone: 330-678-HELP
Phone: 866-449-8518
Website: www.townhall2.com

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Phone: 800-273-TALK
[Veterans, press 1]

The Trevor Lifeline: Preventing Suicide Among LGBTQ Youth

Phone: 866-488-7386
Website: www.thetrevorproject.com


If you feel threatened or endangered, CALL 911!

In rare 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.