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Taking Care of Ourselves & Each Other

Health & Well-Being

Tip of the Month: How to Support a Friend

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If you begin to notice a friend may be going through a difficult time or struggling, you may wonder what to do at that moment, especially if they are telling you everything is “fine.” Chances are they may be still trying to understand their feelings, do not know how to talk about it, are feeling embarrassed or ashamed, or do not want to be a burden to others. Trust your instinct and take the initiative to start the conversation.


How to Start the Conversation if You Notice Your Friend Struggling

Check in with your friend. The first step is recognizing that your friend might be struggling emotionally and that there are different reasons why they have not reached out to you for help. Try saying: “You don’t seem like yourself lately. Maybe it’s just everything going on right now. I wanted to check in and see if we could catch up sometime.” 

Plan a time and location to talk. When setting this time up, you must choose a location that is conducive to having a talk in relative privacy– offer to grab a coffee, hang out at one of your dorms, or go for a walk. Avoid loud, crowded spaces. 

Start the conversation from a place of concern and support. You can tell them how much you care about them by being specific about what you’ve seen or heard that’s causing you concern and offering them your support. Try saying: “I noticed that you have been _____, and I just wanted to let you know that I’m here for you and ready to listen when you feel most comfortable.” Give them your full attention and be there to listen to them. 

Let them know they are not alone. Tell them they are not alone and be patient because sometimes they may not be ready to tell you everything or may not know how to articulate how they are feeling. By creating a safe space, even when it is just silence, they are more likely to open up with you and express how they are feeling. 

During your conversation, make sure that you stay away from language that is judgmental or accusatory, and avoid mentioning other people’s opinions and comments that may come off as combative or defensive. The best thing you can do is to listen to them and be there for them. 

If after your conversation you still feel your friend may benefit from additional support, and is receptive to getting help, look into other resources that may support them such as CAPS, Well-Being Coaches, the Bridge Peer Counseling Center, or Residential Staff. You can also visit Mental Health Resources at Stanford for additional resources.

Written by: Edward Tran, Class of 2023


Stanford Resources

  • Mental Health Resources at Stanford. Your go-to hub for navigating the many mental health and well-being resources at Stanford. Use the guiding questions in each section to discover the right resources for you and/or your friend.
  • Reach Out to Your PeersWhether you are looking for casual advice or guidance, know there are individuals in our community eager and ready to help you, some of these being your friends and/or peers- many who have experienced similar situations as you. Explore the peer support resources available to you.
  • The Bridge Peer Counseling Center. Peer counseling by trained students who can offer a listening ear and/or advice regarding common issues and concerns facing students (e.g. relationship, academic, financial).
  • Graduate Residential Staff Graduate Life Deans, Community Associates (CAs). Professional staff and fellow Stanford graduate students who provide information, advice, assistance, and, if needed, referrals for academic and personal issues.  They can assist students in finding services and information on the Stanford campus. Graduate Life Deans can also provide crisis intervention.
  • Undergraduate Residential Staff Resident Directors (RDs), Resident Fellows (RFs), and Resident Assistants (RAs). Trained professionals and student staff who can advise you about personal issues and assist with emergencies. They are available whenever you have a problem and can provide valuable insight from their own Stanford experiences.

Additional Resources