The Psychological Counseling Center (PCC) staff regularly consults with students who are concerned about their friends. Students contact us about friends who have expressed thoughts or exhibited behaviors that may indicate a risk for suicide or homicide, alcohol or other substance abuse, disordered eating behavior, uncontrollably angry behavior, or notably sad or depressed behavior, including not attending classes, or not participating in activities with friends.
If you are concerned about a friend, you can talk with your friend directly, discuss your concerns with your Resident Advisor (RA) or Resident Director (RD), contact OASIS/HAVEN to speak with a peer crisis volunteer, or speak with a mental health professional at the PCC 845-257-2920.
If you decide to talk with your friend directly, be honest, caring and supportive. Describe clearly, concretely, and specifically what it is about their behavior that concerns you. Encourage your friend to talk with a PCC counselor. Offer to walk with your friend to the PCC to make an appointment.
Typically, a student who is having difficulty will appreciate knowing that friends care, and will feel relieved to talk with someone about personal struggles.
Suicide is rarely impulsive, and prior to acting on suicidal thoughts, a student may provide clues through words or behaviors about a depressed state. These words or behaviors may be noticed by friends, roommates, faculty, and others.
These clues may include:
- Talking about suicidal intentions, or threatening to kill oneself
- Making statements such as, "I don't know how much longer I can take this," or, "I really don't care what happens."
- Making a suicide attempt
- Planning for suicide, such as purchasing pills or "saving up" pills
- Behaving recklessly
- Writing stories, poems or letters that focus on one's death
- Giving away possessions, especially valuable or special items
These behaviors are cause for concern, especially if they occur close to a significant change in your friend's life, such as death of a loved one, relationship breakup, failing academic performance, or problems with finances. If you observe a friend exhibit these behaviors, please discuss what you know as soon as possible with your RA/RD or contact the PCC.
Alcohol use is common among college students and most students drink responsibly. Others may exhibit heavy alcohol use or engage in binge drinking. Heavy drinking may lead to alcohol poisoning. Contact University Police at 845-257-2222 or 911 for emergency assistance if a friend exhibits these signs of possible alcohol poisoning:
- Is unconscious and cannot be awakened
- Has cold, clammy, unusually pale or bluish skin
- Vomits while passed out and does not wake up during or after
Disordered Eating Behavior
Many college students are concerned about calories, exercise, or their weight, yet do not have an eating disorder. Other students feel their self-worth is dependent upon maintaining a certain weight, and may exercise excessively, keep detailed food diaries, or experience intense guilt or shame after eating. They may engage in episodes of bingeing followed by periods of purging or restricting food intake. While not all students with eating concerns qualify for a diagnosis of an eating disorder, their thoughts and behaviors may cause them a great deal of distress, anxiety, or sadness, and may impair their quality of life.
Eating disorders have the potential to cause serious and permanent physical damage or even death. Friends and roommates of a person who exhibits disordered eating are often the first to notice signs, such as visible changes in a friend's weight, increased time spent in strenuous exercise, the friend disappears after every meal, or never eats with others. If you are concerned, express your worries to your friend in a quiet, private space (NOT during mealtime). Suggest the friend speak to a PCC counselor. Your friend may deny there is a problem. If so, let your friend know you are willing to listen when they are ready to share.