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How to Help a Friend

As many as half of all college students suffer from depression at some point during their university career. Some of these students may feel so overwhelmed or hopeless that they will consider taking their own lives.

By knowing the warning signs that someone is struggling with mental health issues or suicidal, by showing support and taking the time to ask that person if they are doing ok, and by telling that person where to get help, you can help someone before it is too late.

If a student seems to be in immediate risk and refuses help, do not leave him or her alone. It is best to call for help (Public Safety at 515-271-2222 or 911 and remain with that person until help arrives unless your safety is in jeopardy.

Know: The Signs

When someone is depressed and/or suicidal they often show signs that indicate how they are feeling.  Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Withdrawal from social interaction or apathy toward activities
  • Not functioning at previous levels (e.g. receiving poor grads, quitting sports)
  • Problems concentrating, remembering things, or thinking or speaking
  • Increasing sensitivity to or irritable about sights, sounds, smells, or touch
  • Feeling disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings
  • Nervous, fearful, panicked, aggressive or suspicious
  • Sleep or appetite changes
  • Changing moods
  • Talking about death or suicide, directly or indirectly
  • Looking depressed (tearful, sad, hygiene changes, dress changes)


Ask: Show You Care

If you notice that someone you know is showing signs that they may be depressed or suicidal, one of the best things that you can do is ask.  Asking someone how they are and letting them know you are concerned about them can help a person to see that they are not alone.  Here are some steps you can follow:

1. Ask the person directly if they are thinking about committing suicide. Do so without judgment or criticism. Be calm. You might be afraid that asking someone this question will putt he idea in their head, but that is not the case. It is best to be direct.

2. Do not promise to keep a secret. If someone is at risk, you may need to get help from others.

3. Let the person know you care.

4. Remember that you are not alone. There are many resources on campus to help you and the person you are concerned about.

Tell: Where to get Help

The third step is knowing where to get help and passing that information on.

If the student needs emergency assistance, call Drake Public Safety at 515-271-2222 or 911.

If you feel that a student is having difficulties that do not require immediate intervention, encourage them to seek counseling and provide them with appropriate information. You may choose to follow up with your friend to see how they are doing and let them know that you care.


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