I am a Friend

Help! I’m worried about my friend.

Maybe you noticed your friend’s mood has changed; maybe you are aware they have experienced something traumatic; perhaps you hear them say a lot of negative things about themselves. There are many possibilities of things your friend may be struggling with, and you want to be helpful as their friend.

For some, help may be in the form of counseling; however, seeking counseling is a personal choice and may be difficult for your friend to get on board with for a variety of reasons. Below you will find tips and information that may help you navigate your options as a friend:


  • Communicate openly. Whether it’s talking to a friend in distress or trying to resolve conflict – consider communicating more openly, which may feel a lot like being vulnerable. This doesn’t mean you have to share everything with your friend, but it may mean getting slightly uncomfortable to share observations or hurt feelings. We know it sounds scary. Remember the SEEN (PDF) strategy and consider checking out our communication or conflict resolution self-help resources or talk with your counselor.
  • Offer support in a nonjudgmental way. Regardless of whether you decide to have a conversation with your friend or not, offer nonjudgmental support. Let them know:
    “You’re not alone”
    “I want to support you”
    “I care about you”
    “I hear what you’re saying and I want to connect you to resources that can help”
    “I’ll go with you”

    Consider simply listening and providing validation (“this sounds hard” or “it makes sense why you’re scared”) or discussing observations and concerns, rather than giving opinions and advice. Be encouraging (“I know you can do this!” or “I believe in you”).

  • Maintain personal boundaries. While it’s important to offer nonjudgmental support, it’s equally important to know your limits. Remember, you are not your friend’s counselor; you are their friend. It is not your responsibility to “fix” their struggles or “rescue” them. Check in with yourself and notice if you’re feeling frustrated, depleted, overly worried, distracted from academics, or have little time to yourself/to spend with others – these may be clues that putting boundaries in place could be beneficial. Consider communicating care to your friend, but referring them to professional resources. You may even consider reaching out for yourself.
  • Empower friends to help themselves. When your friend is experiencing a problem, allow them to take an active and equal role in the problem-solving process. Let them take the lead and offer your support and encouragement along the way like a cheerleader or coach. Remember, they get to make their own choices – just like you.
  • Know that it’s okay if your friend isn’t happy all the time, even if they’re the happy friend. Emotions are like the weather, some days it may seem sunny, others cloudy, and still others a mixture of rain and sun. To experience the full range of emotions is normal for anyone. It’s when we notice significant changes, a detrimental consistent pattern, or issues with daily functioning that may be cause for concern. That might be the time to have a conversation.
  • Offer resources when they won’t share. Keep in mind, it may be a difficult time or topic for your friend to share while struggling, or they may feel embarrassed or ashamed. If a friend does not want to share or get help right now, let them know you care and are ready to help if they change their mind. You could offer to take them to CCSD, their RA or Coordinator, or a professor if they prefer to talk to someone else. Some of these campus resources may also be helpful to provide.
  • Ask for help. Seek assistance or counseling for yourself if you feel challenged or overwhelmed with your friend’s concerns. You can serve as a model for help-seeking that may encourage your friend to do the same. You can remind your friend that asking questions and using available resources reflects courage.


What kind of counseling services do you provide?

We offer various services which include: urgent support services, individual and group counseling, workshops, referral services, consultation, and Collegiate Recovery Community. Our counseling services are intended to provide short-term assistance to students in dealing with personal, emotional, and mental health concerns which may be barriers to their academic progress. Referrals to off-campus mental health providers may be provided to best serve your friend’s needs.

Who is eligible?

Any registered ECU undergraduate or graduate student can receive services.

What if my friend is not willing to go to your Center?

Listen to their reasons for not seeking help, validate their concerns, and encourage them to try. Consider offering to walk with them to our Center or be present while they call to schedule. You may remind your friend that seeking help is a sign of strength. In addition, remind your friend our services are free and confidential. If they won’t go and you are very concerned, you can submit your concerns to ECU Cares (for non-emergencies; for emergencies contact ECU Police) or talk with them about other therapy options if they prefer to be seen off-campus.

Can I make an appointment for my friend?

Appointments are made by your friend, but you can support them while they make it. They can either call our Center at 252-328-6661 to schedule an appointment.

Can I know what happens at my friend’s counseling appointments?

Your friend’s records are confidential, meaning that we cannot disclose information about your friend or their sessions without written permission. We follow ethical standards and all state and federal laws regarding confidentiality.

Who will be my friend’s counselor?

We have a professional staff consisting of several mental health disciplines. We also have graduate-level counselors-in-training who provide therapy under the supervision of senior staff counselors.

What if my concerns are not related to their mental health?

You may find these resources more helpful.