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Helping a Friend


Counseling Center

Furrow Hall

175 West Knox Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999



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East entry to Ford Center for the Fine Arts.

Are you wondering how you can better help a friend or loved one with a mental illness, or unsure if you should be concerned in the first place? The fact that you are willing to help and are looking for resources is a great start.

If you don't know when to reach out to someone, check out our other student resource pages or our When Should I See a Counselor? page for more indication of signs of distress or mental illness.

Counseling Services is available for consultations if you'd like to talk about concerns for a friend, stop by or call 309.341.7492 to schedule. We will not be able to give you any information about your friend, but could help you process your concerns and decide what to do next. Remember that you cannot schedule an appointment for a friend, we must speak to them directly. See more tips below along with a few links to more information.

If you feel like your friend is in immediate danger of hurting themselves or someone else, contact Campus Safety at 309.341.7979 or call 9-1-1.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • No one is to blame for having a mental illness. Mental illnesses have hereditary and physiological aspects along with environmental factors. 
  • It is never OK to be neglected, abused, hurt, or threatened by anyone, even if a mental illness is involved. Your needs matter, and your own health should be your priority. 
  • Mental illness is not an identity. It may be part of someone's life, but it does not define them.
  • If you begin to resent someone for their illness, consider the possible need to re-define boundaries with that person.
  • A person's symptoms may worsen even with strong social support. This could be part of the natural course of the illness. Don't take it personally, and do encourage they seek professional help.

What Do I Say?

  • Vocalize your concerns. Guessing what someone is thinking or talking about it to a third party further isolates the person in question. Taking your thoughts to them personally lets them know you care and avoids rumors.
  • Be direct. When communicating a concern, state the behavior you observed. For example, "I noticed you missed class today, are you OK?" or "I haven't seen you at lunch lately, how are you?" or "You seem a little distant today, would you like to talk?"
  • Reflect, don't solve. Jumping to solutions can be dismissive. Reflecting what you have heard lets your friend know that you are listening and gives them a chance to help you understand their experience. 
  • Start a dialogue not a debate. If the person becomes agitated, try to keep a calm, low tone and explain your concerns in a non-emotional, factual manner. 

What Can I Do?

  • Know the illness. Look around our other resource pages and do your own research. Educating yourself helps you understand your friend's experience and catch warning signs of their illness in the future.
  • Be patient. Recovery can be a long road for certain illnesses, and it takes hard work. 
  • Include them in your plans. If a friend has been more withdrawn, continue to give them opportunities to socialize. They may not always join, but it reminds them that people care.
  • Take care of yourself. If you aren't healthy, you won't be able to help others. Keep up with your own wellness, and remember resources are available for you as well.
  • Lend a hand. Offering to help with even the smallest of everyday tasks could mean a lot to someone with a mental illness. Not sure what would be helpful? Just ask!

Online Resources

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, come to Counseling Services during business hours. After business hours call Campus Safety (309.341.7979) or call 9-1-1. Click Crisis Sessions for more information.

Knox College

Printed on Tuesday, October 23, 2018