Everyone handles stress differently and we can all use a friend when life gets tough. Often, a kind word or a sympathetic ear is often all your friend or roommate needs after a bad day. If your friend is experiencing real distress, you can still help by reaching out. We know you’re busy and may be feeling overwhelmed yourself, but it’s not your responsibility to fix anyone or face the situation alone.
Encourage your friend to come to Student Services or talk to Berkeley Law’s dedicated psychologist, Dr. Linda Zaruba. If your friend is reluctant or you’re not sure where to begin, come to Student Services or contact Dr. Zaruba yourself. We can help you evaluate the situation and decide how we can best help your friend.
What to look for
When a friend or roommate is struggling, he or she may be in distress and need professional help. The following are some symptoms and behaviors that can indicate a mental health issue and the need for further assistance:
- Confused thinking
- Prolonged depression, including sadness, tearfulness or irritability
- Extremes of excessively high or low energy and mood
- Excessive fears, worries, or anxiety
- Social withdrawal or isolation
- Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Marked changes in appearance, e.g. poor hygiene, significant weight gain or loss
- Strong feelings of anger
- Excessive self-criticism
- Delusions or hallucinations
- Growing inability to deal with daily problems and activities
- Numerous unexplained physical ailments
- Abuse of alcohol or other drugs
- Denial of obvious problems
- Talk of hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts or references to suicide or self harm
(Information from UHS Tang and Mental Health America.)
What you can do
One of the most helpful things you can do for a friend who is struggling is to listen and be supportive. Don’t try to ignore the problem. Instead, express your concerns directly and compassionately, without anger or judgment. Let them talk and try not to minimize or dismiss their fears. Provide reassurance that help is available and that you will continue to be their friend.
Encourage your friend to contact Student Services, Dr. Zaruba, or Tang CPS. If your friend seems reluctant, offer to accompany him or her to one of our offices to provide reassurance and see to it that they get the help they need. We have resources to help and we don’t want you or your friend to face these problems alone.
A word about Suicide
If a friend or someone you know has mentioned or is contemplating suicide, take it seriously and get help.
If someone has attempted to take their life or is in imminent or immediate danger of taking their life, dial 9-1-1. If you are on or near campus and using a cell phone, you can also dial UCPD Emergency at 510.642.3333.
If you are concerned about a Berkeley Law or UC Berkeley student who is not in any immediate danger of harming themselves:
- Come to Student Services or contact Dr. Linda Zaruba. The most efficient way to contact Dr. Zaruba is to text her at 510-326-1267. Please include your name and that you are a law student.
- Call the UC Berkeley Counseling and Psychological Services(CPS) at 510.642.9494 for a consultation on how best to help.
- When Tang is closed, call the After Hours AssistanceLine at 510.643.7197 and ask to speak with a counselor. Counselors are available whenever CPS is closed.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.8255
Crisis Support Services of Alameda County
Remember to take care of yourself
Supporting a friend in need can be a draining and difficult experience. Even as you encourage them to seek the help they need, you cannot hold yourself responsible for someone else’s actions or emotional states. If your friend or roommate’s problems are starting to affect your own well-being, come to Student Services or make an appointment with Dr. Zaruba. The most efficient way to contact Dr. Zaruba is to text her at 510-326-1267. Please include your name and that you are a law student. We can help you to care for yourself and make a plan to help your friend.
If your friend is grieving the death of a loved one or another major loss, you can help by reaching out with patience and support.
Tang has further advice and suggestions on what you can do to help a friend who is depressed or distressed.