Lean on Me: How to Help a Friend in Need
“If there is anything I can do, just let me know”
This is probably something we’ve all said to a friend going through a rough time. But, the reality is, most people dealing with a serious issue are not always able to recognize and express what they need.
Here are some suggestions:
Lean on me, when you’re…
You have recently noticed your friend is acting strangely withdrawn and seems to always be down. You are worried your friend may be feeling depressed and you wish there was a way to help.
- Invite your friend to watch a funny movie with a group of friends and share some healthy laughter.
- Take your friend to a planned workout session at the gym.
- Encourage your friend to seek counselling at the Student Wellness Centre.
- If you think your friend is contemplating suicide, ask them in a non-judgmental way. If you are unable to ask them, find someone who can. Listen to their concerns, encourage them to seek counselling at the Student Wellness Centre and offer to accompany them.
- If you have reason to be concerned for your friend’s immediate safety, call “88” from a campus phone or 905-522-4135 for Security Services if you are on campus; if you are off-campus, call 911.
Struggling in School
Your friend is struggling with managing their work-load and expresses concern about failing a course. The stress seems to be getting to them and you wish there was a way to help.
- Encourage your friend to attend office hours and tutorial sessions for extra help.
- Suggest that they find out about group study sessions that students in their class may have formed.
- Discuss future academic goals and how they wish to achieve them.
- Recommend a visit to their faculty academic advisor and/or the Student Success Centre (GH 110, http://studentsuccess.mcmaster.ca) for academic workshops and skills assistance and education planning.
- Suggest visiting the Student Wellness Education Lower Lounge in MUSC B118 for resources on stress management.
Not Feeling Beautiful
Your friend seems to be constantly picking out flaws in their appearance and looking for quick but unhealthy ways to lose weight. You are worried your friend has a distorted view about the way they look and it may take a toll on their health. You wish there was a way to help.
- Encourage your friend to set reasonable long-term goals for healthy eating habits and physical exercise.
- Compliment your friend and remind them that they are beautiful the way they are.
- Plan cooking sessions with a group of friends and enjoy a healthy meal together.
- Suggest that they speak to a doctor or a counsellor at the Student Wellness Centre to receive a nutrition assessment and the support they may need.
Struggling with Alcohol
Every time you go out with a group of friends, you notice one friend always seems to drink more than they can handle. You begin to be concerned as this happens more frequently and your friend looks for any opportunity to have a drink. You wish there was a way to help.
- Have an open and honest discussion with your friend about your concerns and how you are available if they need support.
- Be a good listener and avoid making any accusations.
- Anticipate that your friend may be in denial about their drinking habits so be careful not to come off as judgmental or frustrated.
- If the issue gets out of hand, encourage your friend to speak with a doctor or counsellor.
- If your friend passes out, do not leave them alone. If you are worried about their physical condition, get medical help ASAP, especially if you cannot rouse them (dial “88” from a campus phone or 905-522-4135 for Security Services if you are on campus, or dial “911” if you are off-campus). Use the recovery position to reduce the risk of choking.
Learn the Recovery Position
The recovery position can help reduce the risk of choking. Use the following steps to put your friend into the recovery position until help arrives:
- Raise the person’s arm closest to you straight above the head. Straighten the leg closest to you. Bend the other leg at the knee and bring the other arm across the chest.
- Place your hands on the shoulders and hips. Gently roll the person towards you. Guard the head.
- Tilt the head to maintain the airway. Tuck nearest hand under the cheek to help maintain head tilt.
If left in your care, continue to monitor your friend for vomiting and make sure they are breathing. Rouse them every 20-30 minutes to ensure they are responsive.
Faced with an Unexpected Pregnancy
Your friend has recently shared with you that she is pregnant. She is confused and afraid as everything in her life is about to change. You wish there was a way to help.
- Listen to your friend in an encouraging, warm and non-judgmental manner.
- Recommend that they visit the Student Wellness Centre or the Student Health Education Centre (SHEC) in MUSC 202 to learn about all of their options and/or to receive support.
Trying to Come Out
Your friend has recently opened up to you about their sexual orientation and is worried as to how to tell their other friends and family. This concern is causing them a great amount of anxiety and affecting their school and health. You wish there was a way to help.
- Tell your friend you are very happy they opened up to you and they have your support.
- Have a discussion with your friend to outline what they hope to achieve when coming out.
- Discuss possible challenges they may face when they do come out and how they can overcome them with your support. Encourage them to make a decision that works best for them and not to follow anyone else’s agenda or pressures.
- Let them know they can visit the Queer Students Community Centre (MUSC 221) for resources and support from peers who may have had to go through a similar coming out process.
- Suggest that they speak with a counsellor at the Student Wellness Centre to receive support during their coming out process.