How To Support A Friend With Mental Health Problems
According to a recent report, 27% of students have suffered with mental health problems. Among females, this number rises to 34% and for LGBT+ people the rate is a staggering 45%.
Those dealing with mental health problems struggle to complete simple daily tasks, let alone find the motivation to complete essays and assignments. While professional support is often necessary, there are still things you can do if one of your uni friends has poor mental health.
What’s causing mental ill health in students
The number of university dropouts caused by mental health problems has more than trebled in the last few years. While each case is unique, it seems that universities are failing to provide the support for students as they make the leap from school to university.
Students are having to deal with both a change in learning environment and a drastic alteration in their personal living situation. Moving to a strange city and taking on the extra burdens of living alone can take its toll.
As more students are getting 2.1s, the pressure to get a first can be overwhelming in an increasingly competitive job market. This, combined with the pressures of social media, may partly explain why there has been an increase in mental illness on campus. It may also be that more students are more open about their mental health due to a reduced stigma around the subject.
It can take a lot of courage for a student to be open about their mental health struggles. If the topic arises in conversation, don’t change the subject and make sure to listen carefully to what they’re saying. However negative a conversation feels, just having it is one of the best things you can do for your friend.
If they offer up personal information, it is important to keep this confidential. This will help them stay willing to open up more in future. The only exception is if you believe they are at a high risk of committing suicide, in which case you should dial 999.
Once you are aware that they are struggling, you can offer to help them to make their lives easier. This could be as simple as helping them with their daily chores or studying together.
Make sure they are taking medication if necessary and attending any psychiatric appointments. While you can’t force them to do anything, just checking up on them from time to time will help them feel less alone and that there is someone who cares for them.
Do your research
If they have disclosed a specific medical diagnosis, you can educate yourself on the disorder. This will help you to understand and the symptoms and sympathise with what they are dealing with. You can also then do some more specific research into how you can help.
For example, there is a large difference between ADHD and OCD in terms of how you deal with problems that arise. Then there is the distinction between manic depression and seasonal affective disorder. Students suffering with the former may seem elated, with inflated self-esteem. As a result, you might believe they are not feeling depressed at all, when in fact this is just another part of their illness.
With over a quarter of students admitting to mental health problems, there is a high chance you know someone who is suffering. Whether this is a temporary mild response to stress or something much more serious, your support is incredibly important. Let your friends know that they can speak openly with you and that you are there to support them and this will make their uni experience much more enjoyable.