College is an exciting time that opens many doors to the present and future. However, we can sometimes get so lost in the frenzy of friends, attending class, studying for exams, meeting deadlines and going out that we forget to take the time to check in on one another. Conversations become casual and can be difficult to have with a friend who shrugs off their warning signs. Be aware of your friends and classmates' behaviors and emotions. If you have concerns, speak up and show your concern. Be persistent. Be one of the nine.
They are not hanging out with friends, hiding and avoiding social situations, and making plans not to be around. They may be having problems with peers and having trouble making friends.
They are missing classes, failing in school, having trouble concentrating, overly stressed out or anxious about school.
They have changed completely, aren't acting like themselves anymore, started smoking cigarettes recently or something else that is out of character. Their moods are all over the place and their personality and way of acting is changing dramatically.
They are sad a lot of the time, have low energy, are not taking care of their personal hygiene, having episodes of crying without an obvious reason. They are really stressed out or anxious and not coping, may be agitated and can't handle criticism.
They are driving irresponsibly, drinking too much, using drugs to excess, using prescription drugs without medical supervision. They are hurting themselves intentionally - cutting, burning, hitting, breaking bones, choking, etc.
They are communicating thoughts of suicide, texting, tweeting, or saying things like: I wish I were dead; I'm going to end it all; You will be better off without me; What's the point of living?; Soon you won't have to worry about me; Who cares if I'm dead anyway?
They are not eating or are eating to excess, lost or gained a lot of weight in a short period of time.
They are having trouble sleeping, sleeping too much or too little.
They recently went through a traumatic event or are experiencing distress from a past trauma and haven't gotten help – bad break-up, death or illness of a loved one, rape or sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, etc.
They are giving away prized possessions or valuable items like their favorite necklace, movies/music, clothing item, piece of a collection, etc.
Everyone has down days once in a while and for some, external stressors, brain chemistry, or a combination of both can lead to depression. People can become depressed when under a great deal of stress (like moving away to college, a parent's illness, divorce or loss of job, keeping up with grades, paying for college, etc.). Even when things seem the darkest, there is help available.
Educating yourself about living with mental illness and mental health struggles is one of the best ways you can help yourself or a friend. By being educated, understanding, and supportive, friends can be a valued asset to recovery.
Talking about mental illness and available treatment helps reduce the stigma and keeps the conversation positive and hopeful.
How can I help my friend?
One thing to remember is that noticing, speaking up, and being authentic and present in your relationships may be the first and most important step in saving a life. Consider taking the first step yourself; bring them to counseling and help them find the support they may need. Always be present and supportive, listen diligently and be a shoulder they can lean on. Reach out and stay connected, even a simple text or phone call can go a long way.
If you feel you cannot reach out personally there are an abundance of resources and professionals you can turn to that can provide assistance. Reach out to someone- whether they are a trusted family member, teacher, or mental health professional and check out the resources section below.
You are not alone!
If you feel you or your friend needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number 1-800-273-TALK (8255) (or 911 if immediate assistance is needed).
If in doubt, it doesn't hurt to call. They will listen.
There are many ways that you can get involved in raising awareness about mental health, mental illness and the importance of suicide prevention.
If a friend is unwilling to go to a direct service, you can suggest going to a trusted professor, advisor, coach, etc. who can assist in getting them into the right person's hands. Although it is ideal that your friend is an active participant in seeking out the help they need, sometimes your persuasion is not enough, in which case you may have to seek the assistance of a third party on your friend's behalf, even without their permission. The important thing is that you do not keep your concerns to yourself.