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Supporting someone who is struggling with their Mental Health

By sophiebk 12 Oct 2021

If you have noticed someone has started struggling with their mental health, having someone there to talk to and support them when they are feeling down can really help. It can be difficult to know what to do if you've never experienced something like this before, but here are some simple tips that can really make a difference when they need it the most:

1. Listen

While you may be good at listening, we're not all great at listening non-judgementally. This is a really important first step. Ask your friend what's going on with them and when they are negative or open up about issues they are having, just listen and let them vent. Immediately coming up with solutions or responding with 'at least it's not...' or 'it could be worse...' can trivialise their feelings and make them resistant to opening up again. Sometimes people just need to talk, and that alone can help. 

2. Be positive and uplifting

No matter what they are going through, they will have good days and bad days. Encourage them to keep positive and try to be uplifting. It could be that they want to open up to you about what's going on, or perhaps they want a distraction, just scope it out and go along with what they need.

3. Make them feel involved

Where possible, involve them in things you like and enjoy as much as you can. You need to keep your own independence but if it's appropriate try and make them feel included - whether this is adding them to WhatsApp groups or recommending movies / books you like. They may not want to join in but letting them know they are included should help improve their feeling of belonging.

4. Don't make them feel like an inconvenience

It can be very hard to be around someone who is struggling and feeling down, and you'll want to be careful it doesn't affect your own well being. However, you don't want to make anyone feel worse, so saying things like 'cheer up will you' or 'you're always bringing the mood down' definitely won't get either of you anywhere. Let them know you are there to talk to when they need it, and avoid passing any negative comments in the meantime.

5. Give them space when they need it

If they don't join in on group activities, don't give them grief about it or make them feel bad as this will only push them further away and it will have a lasting negative effect on them. Check in, but don't push it.

6. Let them know you're not judging them

The stigma around mental health might make people think they're going to be judged and that they can't talk about their problems. That's why you need to let them know that you aren't judging them, and you really do just care about their wellbeing. It sounds small but it can make a huge difference.

7. Help them however you can, but know your boundaries and look after yourself

It's important to help them whenever and wherever you can, but know when it's the right time to pass it onto someone else. Encourage them to speak to their family if they feel comfortable doing this, often this can ease a lot of the pressure.

Also, don't forget that there is also plenty of support available from the University, both for you to signpost others to but also for yourself as well. In addition to your Residential Advisers in Halls, there are services across the University to help here. To find out more click here and visit our Support Tab on Halls Life.

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