Supporting a Friend

You may be the first or only person to know when a friend is dealing with very difficult emotions or life challenges. It can be hard to know how to respond or what to do.

Here are some tips and training for how to show up, what to do if your friend is feeling hopeless or suicidal, and who can help.

  • Stay calm and use a quiet voice.
  • Listen to understand.
  • Offer empathy and validate the person’s feelings.
  • It’s okay to relate to a similar personal experience, but keep it short and refocus on the person you are supporting.
  • Build hope that the situation can get better by sharing that you and others care and will be there. You can also share information about the Counseling Center or other relevant resources.
  • Ask what would be helpful, but try not to jump into trying to fix or solve the problem for them.
  • If the person doesn’t want to talk now, it’s okay. Let them know you’ll still be around if they would like to talk in the future.
  • Remember the Counseling Center offers 24/7 crisis support at 573-882-6601.

Showing genuine empathy is one of the best things you can do for someone experiencing emotional pain. Learning to show empathy can be hard. In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Brené Brown makes empathy easier. Watch Brown’s video on empathy.

Ask Listen Refer is a suicide training program designed to help you prevent suicide by teaching you to identify people at risk, recognize warning signs and get help.

Invite the Counseling Center to an organization meeting to share more about how you can recognize when a friend may need help and how you can best support them.

RESPOND is an eight hour training offered by the MU Counseling Center to help you respond to a friend or student who may be dealing with painful emotional experiences. The training covers suicide prevention, but is geared to help you intervene before suicide becomes an option.