University of Southern Indiana
How to Make the First Move

Who are You?  Who do you want to be?

If you saw this, would you know what to do? Consider some general concerns and then check out the Topics section to learn more about individual situations.


Emergency vs. Non-Emergency Situations

  • Emergency situations are those that require immediate intervention. These are things like: a drunk friend is walking out to his car with keys in hand, a drunk couple is heading into a bedroom at a party, or a fight is brewing between two people.
  • Non-emergency situations are those that may not require immediate intervention, but you still need to do something. These can include: a friend is having academic trouble, is depressed, or may have an eating disorder.

Non-emergencies can turn into emergencies very quickly. It is always best to intervene early!


Direct vs. Indirect Helping

  • To help in a Direct manner, you take responsibility as the primary helper and/or speak with the person directly.
  • To help in an Indirect manner, you seek assistance from someone else. This person becomes the primary helper.  Some examples are calling Police, Public Safety, or EMS.  You might also talk to someone (i.e. teacher, administrator, coach) tp give guidance.

How you make a move is dependent on the situation. You handle emergencies very different from non-emergencies. You always want to make sure a situation is safe before you get involved – if not, it’s time to call in assistance.


What to Do
In emergency situations:

  1. Look for the best exit strategies (how to get out of the situation) for everyone involved.
  2. Choose the most effective way of helping for the situation. See the individual topic links for sample situations.
  3. Be clear and direct with any requests.
  4. Publicly state your commitment to help: “I will do X.”
  5. Engage others: “You do Y.”

In non-emergency situations:

  1. Determine the goal of the intervention.
  2. Think about and practice what you want to say. Be prepared for a negative reaction. People can feel attacked when confronted and can get angry and defensive. Assure them that you care about them.
  3. Interrupt, distract, and/or delay a situation that you think might be problematic, before it becomes an emergency.
  4. Ask questions to understand their point of view.
  5. Do not make excuses for the person or enable them.
  6. Conduct conversations in a safe environment. Avoid gossip and don’t spread rumors.

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