For Friends, Colleagues, and Family
When friends, family members, or colleagues are hurting, behaving in troubling ways, or otherwise in distress, you may want to help but feel uncertain what to do. You may wonder whether, or how, or when to initiate a conversation, listen, or offer support. FSAP can help, through direct service and through suggestions for you to consider (see below).
Perspective and assistance from FSAP
FSAP counselors frequently provide consultation, by phone or in person, with people who have concerns about someone else. We can discuss:
- Your concerns about someone who might be facing a crisis, experiencing emotional distress, abusing alcohol or other drugs, or struggling with mental health problems.
- Your observations of the impact of an individual's distressing behaviors or problems on others.
- The impact of bias-related incidents, other harassing or threatening behaviors, or violence.
- Things you can say and do, or should avoid.
- Services that might be helpful for you or for someone else. Opportunities for education, outreach, support, or intervention.
- Strategies for helping someone connect with FSAP or other support services.
Your consultations with FSAP are confidential.
So are the consultations of others. Please understand that all information about FSAP clients is completely confidential (even the fact that they are clients). However, we may still be able to provide general information about how to understand, provide assistance, or get help for the person or situation you describe. And confidentiality does not limit what you can tell us.
WHEN YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT SOMEONE ...
Consider what's behind your concern
When you are concerned about someone, it's helpful to think about what is contributing to your concern:
- A known circumstance (e.g., the person ended a relationship, lost a family member, experienced abuse, is dealing with a health concern or struggling with an identity issue)
- General signs of distress you may have noticed, without knowledge of what may be triggering the behavior
- Experiences or worries of your own that might be arousing your concern for someone else
Get another perspective
Talking with someone else can be helpful in figuring out what is going on and what you want to do.
- A close colleague, friend, or family member may be good resources for perspective and advice.
- FSAP staff are trained to listen carefully to concerns and help people clarify their own observations, thoughts, feelings, and strategies.
- If the situation feels urgent, you can call FSAP 24/7 to speak with the counselor or mental health provider on call.
- Call 911 for any situation that requires immediate intervention
- alcohol or drug emergency
- other imminent dangers to self or others
Express your concern
More often than not, saying something directly and from the heart to the person about whom you are concerned is the most important thing you can do.
Practice in your own mind so you can assume a compassionate and non-blaming manner. Avoid giving ultimatums or trying to pressure someone into changing or getting help.
- Express your feelings using "I" statements.
For example, you could say to a friend whose alcohol use concerns you, "I'm worried about you because I notice you're drinking more, and missing work more frequently."
- Let the person know that you care about them and you want to help.
- Say things like “tell me more about…”
- Listen with your full attention.
- Be patient, and don’t jump to conclusions or offer quick solutions.
- Ask what they think might help.
- Share resources you are familiar with.
Make a connection
- Don't take on more than you should: help the person connect with appropriate help.
- Cornell and Ithaca have many local resources to aid people who are struggling, including those who are trying to assist another person.
- If you get stuck, remember FSAP phone consultation is available 24/7.
Other ways to make a difference
- Take care of yourself. Model balanced living (work, rest, and fun) in your day to day life. Practice regular stress reduction techniques. Others will notice.
- Develop a personal comfort level discussing stress, mental health/mental illness, high risk behaviors, and other sensitive issues.
- Familiarize yourself with the Cornell Health "Caring for Others" web page, which provides extensive information and resources to help members of the Cornell community respond to someone in distress..
Concerned about a student?
- FSAP: we can help you connect to appropriate people or resources
- Academic advising or student services office in your college
- Cornell Health
- Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): 607 255-5155
- 24/7 phone consultation: 607 255-5155
- various health topics
- "Recognizing and Responding to Students in Distress"
- Faculty handbook (pdf)
- Staff handbook (pdf)