Use CARE to check in with a friend or ask for help for yourself.
How Wildcats CARE
If you're concerned about something a friend said, a change in a friend's behavior, or you are struggling yourself, reach out. Check in with a friend or ask for help for yourself. If you're not sure how to start the conversation, remember CARE.
Check In with a Friend
A: Actively Listen
Practice active listening during this conversation.
R: Respond with Compassion
Respond with patience and understanding. Let your friend know you care.
Use these steps any time you want to check in with a friend or when you notice something concerning.
It’s always a good idea to check in. Do this when you’re first concerned about a friend or when a friend comes to you about a challenge they’re facing. Let them know you care about them and are here to listen and help if they'd like.
Setting: one-on-one, semi-private, in a neutral space (out for a walk, eating a meal together, etc.)
Tone: casual, concerned, open, curious
Phrases that can help:
- “I wanted to check in. How are you doing?”
- "Do you remember when..." Share enough detail for this to be a specific incident, but let the focus be on you checking in.
- “I’ve noticed...” Give a concrete example like, “You’re posting some dark things on social media, I haven’t seen you in a really long time, you haven’t been going to your classes.”
- “I’m concerned about...” refer to the specific statement, behavior
- Give them the option to talk “Is this something you want to talk about?”
- If not, gently let them know that there are lots of kinds of support if they want it, including CAPS.
- Stay calm, curious, and compassionate
- Listen with empathy without trying to fix the problem
- Ask how, when, what questions (how did that happen, when did you start feeling that way, what’s important about this to you) or simply say, “Tell me more.”
- Paraphrase what they’re saying
- Trying to fix the situation or jump in with a solution
- Platitudes, “at least” “you have so much going for you” “everything will be okay”
- Judgment of what they’re saying and their experience
- Telling them their perspective is wrong.
- A big reaction
- Why questions, especially those that suggest the feelings aren’t valid like “Why is this bothering you?” or “Why are you so sensitive about that?”
When someone shares something difficult or vulnerable, acknowledge that. Tell them something like, “Thank you so much for sharing this with me, I know that was probably hard to do.” This can make a big difference in how seen, heard, and validated someone feels.
Ask how you can support them in this moment. Sometimes we think we know what’s best for someone, but most of the time we don’t. Try questions like:
- Do you want me to listen?
- Are you looking for feedback or solutions?
- Can I give you a hug? or Would you like a hug?
Responding with compassion when you're concerned about suicide:
If the thought enters your mind at all that they may be suicidal, having suicidal thoughts, or at risk for suicide, ask them: “Are you thinking about suicide?”
This is probably the part of the conversation that will be most uncomfortable to you. Don’t let that stop you. Ask anyway because this is also one of the most important parts of this conversation.
Counselor tip: Practice saying, “Are you thinking about suicide?” out loud. Choose a friend or another family member to roleplay with and take turns asking the question.
Responding with compassion when you're concerned about drugs or alcohol:
If you're concerned that someone's using drugs but you don't know, it's okay to ask, "Are you using any drugs?" Try to approach this without assuming that they are using drugs or how much they may be using.
If you've observed someone drug or alcohol use, ask open-ended questions like, "How do you feel about how much you've been drinking?" or "How have you been feeling when you're drinking/smoking/etc." Avoid judgment, lectures, or labels like "addict" during this conversation.
Responding with compassion when you're concerned about relationship violence or abuse:
Let your friend know you care about them. If safety is a concern, let them know that you want to make sure they're safe. Try to follow their lead - ask them how they feel things are going or what they're thinking of doing about any relationship concerns they may have.
If your friend is open to help, ask what they need and help connect them with support like Survivor Support Services.
Whatever someone’s going through, you don’t have to help them through it alone. Encourage them to get support, whether that’s from the family, friends, a mental health professional, etc.
Wherever possible, end this conversation with a concrete next step. That next step could be going together to CAPS or making an appointment with their advisor, it could be planning to meet for lunch the next day or looking at supportive resources together. You don't need to know the answer to support your friend in their next step. As a friend, your role is to encourage them to name one small step they can take starting where they are in that moment and make a plan for checking in again together.
Counselor tip: Offer to go with them, ask who is a supportive person in their life that could go with them, schedule a time to follow up and check in on how it went
Ask for Help
Connect one-on-one with a friend or someone else you trust.
A: Ask to Talk
Ask to talk about your concerns. If now isn't a good time, schedule a time to talk.
R: Request Help
Ask for the kind of help you need - listening, brainstorming, problem-solving, walking with you to your appointment, etc.
E: End with a Next Step
Be sure to end the conversation with something concrete for you, your friend, or both of you to do next.
Use these steps to ask for help.
Many of us have difficulty asking for help. It can be tough to know how to start the conversation and what to say. Tone down the pressure by focusing on one step at a time. The first step when we need help is to make any kind of contact.
Goal: Make a connection. You don’t need to start by asking for help. Just make contact.
Once you've made contact, ask if you can talk about your concerns. It doesn't have to be right away, and you don't have to get into a deep conversation right then and there. Just ask, "Can I talk to you about something going on?"
If now isn't the right time, schedule a time to talk.
Goal: Let your friend know you have something important on your mind and find a time to talk.
Name what's going on and request help. Help looks different for everyone and can be very situational. Help could mean listening, brainstorming, problem-solving, walking with you to your counseling appointment, etc. If you can, specify what kind of help you need.
Not sure how someone can help? Start by asking your friend to listen. You may surprise yourselves with their insights.
Goal: Let your friend know you need help and what kind of help you need.
End the conversation with a concrete next step. You don't need to have all the answers sorted out, but naming one step to take can help. Next steps might look like: making an appointment at CAPS or reaching out to a Peer Leader, attending a workshop, role-playing a tough conversation, scheduling a meeting with a professor, or arranging a time to check in again later.
Goal: Give yourself an actionable next step.