University of Southern Indiana

Helping a Friend in Distress

In an Immediately Life-threatening Emergency, Call:
On campus: 812/492-7777 (Office of Public Safety)
Off campus: 911 or go the nearest Emergency Room

Strategies to use when speaking to a friend in distress:

Openly acknowledge thIstock 000010950580Xsmallat you are aware of your friend’s distress and are sincerely concerned about his/her welfare. It is important to speak directly and honestly with your friend when you sense that he/she is emotionally distressed. When you are directly involved with a person experiencing distress we recommend the following:

    • Speak in private to minimize embarrassment and defensiveness.
    • Briefly acknowledge the behaviors you have seen and express your concerns directly and honestly.
    • Listen carefully and try to see the issues from his/her point
      of view.
    • Involve yourself only as far as you feel comfortable. The Counseling Center staff is available to assist you.

Things to keep in mind when helping someone in distress:

    • Be compassionate
    • Be caring
    • Know your limits and what you are able to deal with
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification
    • Pay attention to nonverbal signals/body language

If you are unsure of what to do:

If you are concerned about a distressed friend, we encourage you to consult with one of the counselors on our staff. Once you contact us, a counselor will be made available to you for consultation as soon as possible (if it is an emergency, please inform the front office personal of the urgent nature of your need).

When should I suggest that my friend go to the Counseling Center?

If you notice any of the following signs, please consult with or refer to the Counseling Center.

    • Expressed suicidal thoughts
    • Isolation from others
    • Excessive irritability
    • Lack of energy
    • Marked change in personal hygiene
    • Bizarre or strange behavior
    • Sadness, tearfulness
    • Sleeplessness
    • Frequent binge eating episodes or extreme loss of appetite
    • Dependency (your friend needs to see you/be with you constantly)
    • Lack of enthusiasm about various aspects of life
    • Unusual bruises on his or her face or body
    • Increased usage alcohol or other drugs
    • Failing to attend class or work

How do I refer someone to the Counseling Center?

You can help a friend make a connection to the Counseling Center in any of these ways:

    • Simply suggest he/she call (812/464-1867) or go to the Counseling Center to make an appointment
    • Volunteer to call the Counseling Center while in the presence of your friend to ensure that contact is made
    • You may walk your friend over to our office

Orr Center, Room 1051
Monday - Friday, 8:00 am - 4:30 pm


Support is also available through the University's CARE Team, which is a cross-functional assessment group, chaired by the Dean of Students. This team, of which the Counseling Center is a part, works collaboratively to provide confidential, respectful, and proactive support and resources. The CARE Team centralizes the reporting of information, publicizes current policy, and encourages early intervention.

Anyone (students, parents, faculty/staff, community members) can make a CARE Team referral when they know of a student in need or when they are concerned about a student's behavior. Please go to the CARE Team website to learn more about the CARE Team and how to make a referral. Although not encouraged, referrals may be made anonymously.

Additional Resources

Make the First Move

Make The First Move"It’s very common to be concerned about a situation but not do
anything about it. When we are around other people, we sometimes tell ourselves things like, 'if no one else is concerned, why should I be?' Or maybe you just don’t know what to do.

You can and should make the first move. Even if you don’t know exactly what to do, doing something is almost always better than doing nothing. 

Remember, everyone can make the first move. We all have people we care about, and we all care about this community, so it is up to all of us to keep it safe.

Bad outcomes can be avoided if you do make the first move. You might be able to prevent someone from driving home after drinking, stop a sexual assault before it happens, or help a friend get help before he fails a class.

90% of students believe that a problem could have been avoided with intervention!"

Dare to be the red sheep ! Check out Make the First Move webpage and contact in the Recreation, Fitness, and Wellness Center to set up a program.


Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is a SAFE ZONE for individuals of all ethnicities, abilities, religions, sexual orientations, physical appearances/sizes, and gender identities.


Contact Counseling and Psychological Service (CAPS)


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