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Help a Friend / Student

Are you concerned about a student or friend who appears depressed or not themself?  Has a student, friend, or classmate expressed a desire to hurt him/herself or another person?  Here's what to do in case of emergency, how to read signs of distress, how to interact with someone in distress, and resources you can access on campus and beyond.

Emergencies

In case of an imminent life threatening emergency immediately call 911 and CUMC Security at (212) 305-7979.  Do not stay with a person if you feel that you are in danger. If you feel safe, stay with a person you feel is imminently at risk.

Emergency Numbers and Hotlines

CUMC Public Safety (212) 305-7979

NYPD 911 or (212) 927-3200

CUMC Student Health Service (212) 305-3400

National Lifenet Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

National Hopeline Network 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)

Signs of Distress

People in distress may exhibit these behaviors.  You may contact Mental Health Services to consult: 212-305-3400

Personal

  • Poor hygiene or marked shifts in weight, grooming, etc.
  • Excessive fatigue or sleeping in class or an inability to sleep
  • Appearing disoriented
  • Exaggerated reactions (e.g., emotional outbursts of crying, panic, or being unexpectedly angry)
  • Withdrawal from previous level of contact with peers or faculty
  • Behavior or speech is out of context and/or bizarre
  • Impulsive or risk-taking behavior
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Stockpiling medications
  • Giving away prized possessions

Academic

  • Decline in work quality
  • Repeated absences or missed assignments
  • Repeated requests for extensions
  • In meetings the student repeatedly focuses on personal rather than academic concerns
  • Content of student’s work is disturbing or bizarre (e.g., violent, illogical)

Verbal

  • Expressing feelings of depression, isolation, hopelessness, and/or worthlessness, referencing suicide, explicitly or obliquely (e.g., “no one would miss me if I was gone,” “I can’t stand being in so much pain any longer,” "I just want to disappear.")

Other

  • Peers are expressing concern about a student
  • The student has experienced a loss or trauma

Safety Risk

Seek Help Immediately - Call 911 and CUMC Public Safety 212-305-7979

  • Threats to harm self or others
  • Physical violence
  • Stalking or harassing others
  • Content of academic assignments dominated by themes of violence, rage, despair, suicide

Dos and Don'ts

I am worried about someone - how do I reach out to him/her?  You may contact Mental Health Services to consult: 212-305-3400

Do

  • Speak with the student privately
  • Focus on specific behaviors you have observed that concern you
  • Give the student time to talk
  • Ask the student how s/he has been coping and explore what else s/he think might help in context of considering options
  • If able, set up a later time to check back in with the student to follow up
  • If someone is talking about feeling depressed or hopeless, ask about suicide (e.g., “Sometimes when people are feeling bad it just feels like being alive is too hard.  Have you had any thoughts about hurting yourself or ending your life?”)  Asking about suicide does not give someone the idea and actually tends to make people feel that you are really hearing them and wanting to help
  • Get support for yourself. You may feel helpless, overwhelmed, scared, frustrated, and/or afraid of losing the relationship if you tell someone.
  • If a student discloses an instance of sexual assault or harassment, follow the Sexual Violence Response (SVR) protocol.

Don'ts

  • Don’t promise confidentiality (though you can note that services at MHS are confidential)
  • Don’t leave the student alone if you are concerned for their safety
  • Don’t meet in an isolated place or at a time others will not be around if you are concerned for your safety or the student’s
  • Don’t rush into reassuring or problem-solving – often just listening and reflecting back what you hear will be all the student needs
  • Don’t avoid asking students questions about how they are doing out of a fear that you will embarrass them or put an idea in their head
  • Don’t involve yourself beyond your limits. There are trained clinicians on campus who are accustomed to speaking with students who are in great distress.Your most important job as a friend or colleague is helping the student connect with these resources.

CUMC Resources

Public Safety (212) 305-7979

CUMC Mental Health Service (212) 305-3400

Student Health Service (212) 305-3400

Center for Student Wellness (212) 305-3400

CUMC Student Affairs Deans

P&S (212) 305-3806

School of Nursing (212) 305-2816

College of Dental Medicine (212) 305-3890

School of Public Health (212) 305-3067

GSAS (212) 305-8058

Institute Human Nutrition (212) 305-4808

Occupational Therapy (212) 305-5267

Physical Therapy (212) 305-6907