Helping a Friend

How To Help

Our friends are some of the most important people in our lives. We are often relied upon to support someone when they are going through a difficult time.

Counseling Services offers free consultation if you would like to discuss your concerns and how you can support to your friend. Contact Counseling Services at 541-346-3227.

Supporting Survivors of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment

If a friend or someone you know tells you they have experienced sexual harassment, including sexual assault, dating or domestic violence, gender-based harassment or bullying, and stalking, it may be hard to know what to say. The SAFE website has resources and information that can help you support them.

SAFE Website

Someone Who May Have Suicidal Thoughts or Ideation

If you believe someone you know may be having suicidal thoughts, use these guidelines to help you assess the situation and decide on next steps. If you need assistance or have questions, call Counseling Services or the After–Hours Support and Crisis Line at 541-346-3227.


  • Talk with your friend in private where you both feel comfortable and able to talk openly.
  • Approach the conversation with compassion and avoiding judgment.
  • Speak directly and honestly and share your concern for their welfare.
  • Directly ask them if they are thinking about suicide. Asking this question won't increase their risk.
  • Attempt to identify the problem and explore options to deal with the problem.
  • Convey realistic hope that underlying problems or issues can be resolved.
  • Let your friend know that effective help is available on campus.


  • Don't ignore behavior or changes that concern you.
  • Don't minimize the situation or depth of feeling.
  • Don't over commit yourself and not be able to deliver on promises.
  • Don't promise to keep what they say a secret. You may need to get help and support.

Report a Concern

Someone Who May Have a Problem with Substance Use

It can be difficult to know when—or how—to say something when you’re worried about a friend’s drug or alcohol use. Before you talk to your friend, ask yourself:

How does it affect you?

  • Have you ever had to take care of your friend because of their alcohol or drug use?  How frequently does it happen?
  • Have you ever felt embarrassed or hurt by something they said or did while intoxicated?
  • Do you worry about your friend’s use on a regular basis?

How does it affect your friend?

  • Does your friend drink in order to get drunk?
  • Does your friend drink to escape from or to cope with problems or stress? Do they use drugs or alcohol to avoid painful feelings?
  • Are drugs or alcohol affecting your friend’s academic performance?

It can be helpful to prepare a list of specific problems that have occurred because of your friend's drinking or drug use. Keep these items as concrete as possible. "You're so antisocial when you drink" will not mean as much as, "When you were drunk, you made fun of me and were mean to me. You hurt me." Bring the list with you and keep the conversation focused.

How to talk to your friend

  • Talk to your friend when they are sober. The sooner you can arrange this after a concerning episode, the better. Your message will have more impact while your friend is in the immediate aftermath than it will a week later.
  • Restrict your comments to what you feel and what you have experienced of your friend's behavior. Express statements that cannot be disputed. Remarks like, "Everyone's disgusted with you," or, "Lily thinks you have a real problem," will probably lead to arguments about Lily's problems or who 'everyone' is. Avoid such generalizations.
  • Convey your concern for your friend's well-being with specific statements. "I want to talk to you because I am worried about you," or "Our friendship means a lot to me. I don't like to see what's been happening."
  • It is important to openly discuss the negative consequences of your friend's drinking or drug use. Use concrete examples from your list. "At the party I was left standing there while you threw up. The next day you were too hung over to write your paper. It makes me sad that these things are happening in your life."
  • Be sure to distinguish between the person and the behavior. "I think you're a great person, but the more marijuana you smoke, the less you seem to care about anything."
  • Encourage your friend to consult with a professional to talk about their alcohol or substance use. 

You can offer to find out more about the resources or go with them to an appointment.

Adapted from Brown University Health Services, 2015

If you are concerned about the substance use of a friend or loved one, there are many resources available to help you become an effective ally to help them in the process of recovery.