Expressing Your Concerns

It may be difficult to tell whether someone is dealing with the usual college stressors or if they are facing something more serious that calls for professional attention. Either way, if you are worried about someone, it’s important to talk with them and share your concerns. Below are some common signs and symptoms of a mental illness:

  • Withdrawal from friends, family and activities that used to be enjoyable
  • Trouble concentrating, thinking or making decisions, or suddenly struggling in school
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
  • Anger, rage, or extreme reactions to certain situations
  • Feeling tired or exhausted all the time
  • Restless, irritable, agitated or anxious movements or behaviors
  • Regular crying
  • Ceasing to care about appearance or about keeping up with personal hygiene
  • Reckless or impulsive behaviors such as excessive spending or risky sexual behavior
  • Alcohol or other drug abuse
  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
  • Persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems, or chronic pain that do not respond to treatment
  • Thoughts about death or suicide. If the student you are concerned about is having suicidal thoughts, dial 911 or Psychiatric Emergency Services at (734) 936-5900.

Here are 6 tips for expressing concern to a student:

  1. Express your concerns in a straightforward and non-judgmental way:
    1. Talk about specific behaviors that are worrying you. If you don’t feel comfortable approaching, it may be a good idea to share your concerns with someone closer to them.
    2. Ex: “I am worried about you. You don’t seem like yourself lately. You haven’t been eating, you’ve been sleeping a lot and not socializing like you used to. Have you thought about going to talk with someone about what’s on your mind?”
  2. Listen:
    1. Listen emphatically. Try not to give advice or dismiss their concerns.
    2. Don’t change the subject.
    3. Ask them what you can do to help.
    4. Ex: “This is important. I’m listening.”
    5. Ex: “I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.”
  3. Encourage them to seek help as soon as possible:
    1. Emphasize that treatment is available and its effective.
    2. Offer to help schedule the first appointment or even go with them to get help.
    3. If they are not ready to see a clinician, provide them with information and support and refer them to support groups in the area.
    4. Ex: “There is hope for feeling better. Can I help you find someone to talk to about your concerns?”
    5. Ex: “I have heard good things about the counselors at CAPS.”
    6. Ex: “Can I walk with you to CAPS to see the Counselor-on-Duty?”
  4. Be prepared for all possible reactions:
    1. They may not react to your concern in a positive way and may deny the possibility that they could have a mental illness, become angry, or be unready to seek help.
    2. A negative reaction is not personal. Let them know that you will be available for them if they decide to get help. It may be helpful to discuss with them what, specifically, is stopping them from getting treatment.
    3. If your friend is unwilling to get help and you are still concerned and unsure what to do, you can contact CAPS to get advice about the situation from a clinician.
  5. Never keep talk of suicide a secret.
    1. All talk of suicide needs to be taken seriously. Call a mental health professional or take your friend to the Psychiatric Emergency Department: (734) 936-5900. PES is located in the University Hospital at 1500 East Medical Center Drive.
    2. Ex: “We need extra help. I want to connect you with someone who can help you.”
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Get Help Now - Crisis Text Line 741-741 // Call U-M Crisis Phone Line: 834-936-5900 or 734-996-4747