University is an incredible experience, but it can be full of challenges. Many students talk to their peers when they’re having a tough time at university. But it can be hard to know what to say when a friend or a flatmate is struggling.
So, how can you have a supportive conversation if a flatmate or friend opens up to you about their mental health difficulties?
Don't worry about not understanding everything or knowing the right thing to say – simply by giving them the space to talk, you’re showing them that you’re there for them.
Try your best not to act shocked or surprised, as that could make them feel uncomfortable. And consider your body language too – keep your body language open and approachable.
Here are some other points to consider:
I spoke to a student who experienced mental health difficulties at university about the support of his friends. He told me:
“Believe me, the support of others in what is such an overwhelmingly lonely time for a sufferer, is incredible”.
Providing someone with the space to talk is empowering and can make a huge difference.
Sometimes these conversations can be difficult to have, so don't forget to look after yourself too.
Try to keep in mind:
Another student I spoke to reflected on the support his friends gave him:
“I only now appreciate the difficult situation I put my own friends through and the stress it must have put on them... I sincerely hope my friends put themselves first. There is a limit to what friends can do to help and compromising their own needs does not help anyone.”
If you become concerned about your friend's immediate safety, or the safety of others, call the police/ambulance service by dialling 999 and alert a Unite Students team member.
Student Minds is the UK's student mental health charity. They empower students and members of the university community to look after their own mental health, support others and create change. Find out more at the Student Minds website.