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Helping a Friend

College is a stressful developmental period with many individuals experiencing multiple transitions simultaneously.

Students often experience increased stress which can sometimes feel overwhelming. Sometimes you might notice the impact of stress on your friends before they do and wonder how you can help. Share the Student Counseling Center as a resource for a friend managing homesickness, family stress, relationship issues, changes in mood, or other mental health challenges. If you feel like your friend may be having thoughts to hurt themselves you can help them call us at 865-974-2196 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

If you’re worried about a fellow student who seems to be in distress, the Center for Care and Resilience can reach out and offer that friend support. You can call 865-974-HELP or make a report.

What signs indicate that I should refer my friend to the Student Counseling Center?

If you notice these signs, consider referring your friend: 

  • Abrupt/radical changes in behavior, including a dramatic decrease in academic functioning
  • Isolation from others
  • Noticeable changes in mood, such as depression, apathy, or irritability
  • Poor attendance in classes
  • Sudden outbursts of anger
  • Attention/memory difficulties
  • Alcohol/drug abuse
  • Marked change in personal hygiene/appearance
  • Inappropriate crying
  • Bizarre statements or behavior
  • Suicidal statements

How do I talk with my friend about going to the Student Counseling Center?

Although it might feel intrusive or awkward to address these personal issues with your friend, more often than not they will appreciate your efforts in the long run. Tell them you would like to speak with them about the concerns you have and ask your friend to meet with you during lunch or a favorite activity together. In the course of sharing your concern, do not attempt to be the counselor, but do provide information and options about campus, community, and virtual resources available. 

When talking with a friend:

  • Be mindful of the student’s privacy.
  • Listen carefully; show concern and interest.
  • Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.
  • Suggest counseling services as a resource. Offer to show them the Student Counseling Center website or offer to sit with them while they call for an appointment. 
  • Explain that counseling and referral services at the Student Counseling Center are confidential. Let them know that the counseling staff will not discuss their concerns with anyone (not even you) without their written permission.
  • If your friend resists help and you are still worried, contact the center or call 865-974-HELP to discuss your concerns.

Refer a friend

  • Provide your friend with the Student Counseling Center phone number 865-974-2196 or website for further information. 
  • Consider having your friend call the center at 865-974-2196 from your dorm room or place of residence. 
  • Follow up with your friend by asking whether they followed through with their appointment and how they felt about the session.

Can I call and make the appointment on my friend’s behalf?

Due to confidentiality, we are unable to allow anyone other than the student to make an appointment. You can be most helpful by encouraging your friend to make an appointment or by allowing them to call the Student Counseling Center from your phone.

What should I do if my friend is in distress and needs immediate attention?

  • Let your friend know that they should call the Student Counseling Center at 865-974-2196 and identify themselves as needing immediate assistance. The center does offer same-day appointments for students in crisis. 
  • If you think the situation is an emergency, dial 911 before contacting the center. Do not delay attending to safety issues.
  • The Student Counseling Center welcomes your calls at any time to talk about concerns about a friend or someone you know if you are unsure what to do. Staff can offer suggestions and ideas about referral options, resources, and other ways to address your concerns.