Dear Miss Meghan,
I don’t feel it is my place to tell someone they need to get help, but once you’ve been the sounding board for a friend enough times, you can tell they obviously needs more than I can offer. Is there anything I can say to suggest they talk with someone better equipped than myself without the other person getting hurt? I can see why these things could be taken personally, but I’ve also seen it turn into a vicious cycle. Or sometimes they attempt help but then fall back into old habits. As concerned friends are we essentially…stuck?
Dear Fretted Friend,
This is a common occurrence on our campus, when friends notice that another friend might benefit from help but don’t know what to do. I see numerous students each semester to come in to talk to a therapist about how to help a friend with an eating disorder, abusive relationship, or is being self-destructive. I would suggest being honest with them and expressing that you don’t feel like you are helping them and think they should talk to a counselor. I often suggest, if they are hesitant to come to therapy, offering to come in with them to walk-in hours or attending a group with them for support. The therapists at Counseling Services do not mind if a caring friend or support sits in with someone who is struggling. There are also more passive ways, including just printing out an email from Counseling Services, doing the online mental health screening with them (like the Cosmo quizzes you used to do with your friends in middle school), or picking up a brochure and placing it somewhere where they may see it.
Despite all the ways you can reach out and show your concern, some people are just not ready or in a place where they can ask for help and you have to respect that (unless they are a harm to themselves, in which case please tell someone). They have the right to say “I’m not going to ask for help.” But, as their friend, you also have the right to set a boundary with them and say I can’t help you anymore unless you start helping yourself. This is a really difficult thing to do, and it may ruin the friendship, but if they refuse to take care of themselves, you still have the right to take care of yourself.
Sincerely wishing for snow,