How to Help a Friend

How Can I Help?

Do you have a friend whose attitude has changed, has major mood swings or seems to be distancing themselves? It is common for students to feel stress or overwhelmed in their college life at some point. Feeling homesick, family feuds, relationship issues, procrastination, pressure from exams and grades, trying to find a job, and/or feeling alone are just a few common experiences that students go through in college. CAPS can help you manage these issues.

In many cases, it’s easier to express anger, embarrassment, depression or even thoughts of suicide to someone close. As a friend, your best support would be to refer them to CAPS services. Be mindful that in any situation that you feel may be an emergency, please call 9-1-1. It’s better to be safe and make sure your friend has the help they need.

What Signs Indicate That I should Refer My Friend to Counseling at CAPS?

The following signs may indicate a need to refer your friend to CAPS:

  • Abrupt/radical changes in behavior, including a dramatic decrease in academic functioning
  • Isolation from others
  • Noticeable changes in mood, such as depression, apathy, or irritability
  • Poor attendance in classes
  • Sudden outbursts of anger
  • Attention/memory difficulties
  • Alcohol/drug abuse
  • Marked change in personal hygiene/appearance
  • Inappropriate crying
  • Bizarre statements or behavior
  • Suicidal statements

How Do I Talk With My Friend Accessing Services at CAPS?

Although it may feel intrusive or awkward to address these personal issues with your friend, more often than not he/she will appreciate your efforts in the long run. Tell them you would like to speak with them about the concerns you have and ask your friend to contact you. In the course of sharing your concern do not attempt to be the counselor but do provide information and options regarding available campus and community resources.

Guidelines for Interacting with My Friend

  • Be mindful of the student’s privacy.
  • Listen carefully; show concern and interest.
  • Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.
  • Suggest CAPS services as a resource. Offer to show them the CAPS website.
  • Explain to your friend that services at CAPS are confidential. Let them know that CAPS staff will not discuss their concerns with anyone (not even you) without their written permission.
  • If your friend resists help and you are still worried, contact CAPS to discuss your concerns.

How Do I Make a Referral to a Counselor at CAPS?

  • Provide your friend with the CAPS phone number, (517) 355-8270, or the website for further information.
  • Consider having your friend call CAPS at (517) 355-8270 from your dorm room or place of residence.
  • Follow up with your friend by inquiring as to whether she/he followed through with their appointment and how she/he felt about the session.

Can I Call CAPS and Make the Appointment on my Friend’s Behalf?

No. We are unable to allow anyone other than the student to make an appointment at CAPS. You can be most helpful by encouraging your friend to make an appointment and/or by allowing him/her/them to call CAPS while connected.

What Should I Do if My Friend is in Distress and Immediate Attention is Needed?

  • Let your friend know that they should call CAPS Crisis Line at (517) 355-8270 and press “1” when prompted and identify her/himself as needing immediate assistance. 
  • If you consider the situation to be an emergency, dial 9-1-1 before contacting CAPS. Do not delay attending to safety issues.

CAPS welcomes your calls to (517) 355-8270 at any time to consult with us regarding your concerns about a friend or someone you know. CAPS staff can offer suggestions and ideas about referral options, resources, and other ways to address your concerns.