Helping a Friend
Are you concerned about a friend or family member? Maybe you've noticed a roommate's drinking, your friend's smoking, your sister's eating patterns or your father's stress levels?
You can provide motivation, information and support for that individual to make positive changes. Remember, though, that you are not responsible for that person changing, because only he or she can do that. It may take time for an individual to see the impact of his or her behavior, but you can plant an important seed for change. Here are suggestions for helping a friend.
An initial discussion about a problem should occur when the person is alone. It may be difficult to talk about these issues and denial of problems is common.
Plan your discussion before you begin. Arrange enough time when you are unlikely to be interrupted. Think about the major points you want to make. You can also write a note and talk after your friend has thought about it.
Know facts and resources. Explore this website or visit UHS Health Promotion and Community Relations (suite 2110 or call 734-763-1320) for materials. You can provide written materials for the person to read at her/his own discretion.
In an emergency:
- Life threatening emergency: Call 911
- Medical emergency
- Mental health emergency: Call Counseling and Psychological Services Counselor-on-Duty at 734-764-8312, or after-hours, U-M Psychiatric Emergency at 734-996-4747
- Alcohol Emergency
- Sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, sexual harassment and stalking: see Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center
Talk about how you have been affected by the person's behavior. Share how this makes you feel.
Talk about specific behaviors, not values. Pushing your own values may alienate the person and cause defensiveness. Also, avoid labels such as "alcoholic."
Check your anger. Be sure it's directed at the behavior rather than the person.
Show you care! At every available opportunity, communicate your interest in the person and ask clarifying questions. How do you view your current behavior? How do you feel about this situation? What do you need in order to change the behavior?
Stick to the issues and maintain the offensive. Be careful to keep the focus on your friend if you relate your own personal experiences. Also don't let the individual put you on the defensive about your own behavior.