Sarah, Student Intern for Counselling, Health & Wellbeing shares her thoughts on 8 things to do if you’re worried about a friend …
When you’re worried about a friend or flatmate’s mental health it can be really difficult to know what to do. But friendship can play a key role in helping someone cope with – or even recover from – any difficulties they may be having, so it’s really important that you act on your concerns. If you’re not sure how to do this, consider the following tips to make this tricky process a little easier.
1. Talk about it
This can be the scariest step of all, but it’s also one of the most important – you need to let your friend know that you’re there for them. Be gentle yet to-the-point: ‘I’ve noticed you acting differently and wondered if something was wrong’ or ‘I wanted to check in with you since you’ve seemed pretty down recently’. You may need to express your concern more than once if your friend isn’t willing to open up straight away.
You don’t need to give sage advice right away – just listening calmly and non-judgementally, without trying to ‘fix’ your friend, is enough.
Once your friend has opened up to you, find out more about their issues. Research their symptoms and how to cope with them, track down online communities or local support groups, and learn about what you can do to support them during this difficult time. Mind is a great source of general information and the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing service’s Self Help page has some more specific local resources – just visit Intranet.cardiff.ac.uk and search for ‘self-help’.
4. Encourage them to seek support
You can’t control your friend’s mental health but you can encourage them to seek help in order to aid their recovery. If they seem reluctant, why not help them pick a doctor or counsellor, assist them in listing everything they want to talk about, or even offer to accompany them on their visit.
5. Lead by example
Encourage your friend to live a healthy, positive lifestyle and make sure you’re doing it, too. Eat well, keep active, get enough sleep, and avoid alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. Attend all your lectures and keep on top of your studies.
6. Help out
Sometimes the small tasks can be difficult for someone with a mental health issue so offer to give them a hand with cooking, chores or their studies. Be careful to strike a balance, though – you need to be helpful and supportive without diminishing their independence or enabling any negative behaviours.
7. Be a friend
Their life might be dominated by their mental health issues right now, so give them a break. Continue doing the things you’d normally do together and treat them the same way you’ve always treated them (within reason!). This will give your friend a sense of normality – something they may well be lacking.
8. Look after yourself
Supporting someone with a mental health issue can be stressful and tiring, so make sure to take care of yourself, too. This means being honest and open if you need some time to yourself or if you aren’t able to be there for your friend for any reason. Don’t be afraid to seek support if you need it – the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service run a daily walk-in where you can chat to the team for ten minutes for advice and pointers. Visit Intranet.cardiff.ac.uk and search for ‘drop in’ for more information.
If your friend talks about suicide, take this seriously and make sure they’re getting help from a professional (like their GP or a counsellor). If you’re concerned that they are about to harm themselves call 999 or take them to the nearest A&E department. Don’t leave them alone if you’re worried they might hurt themselves. Call Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 or HOPELineUK on 0800 068 41 41 for further advice.
If you feel like you need further support, visit Intranet.cardiff.ac.uk and search for ‘counselling and wellbeing’ to find out about what the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service can offer you.
Student Support & Wellbeing is open throughout the Summer* if you’d like support with anything come and see us …
- Please drop-in at the Student Support Centre, 50 Park Place (Student High Street) and Cardigan House (Heath Park Campus), or find us the Intranet, to access our full range of support and information. *Please note that The Student Support Centre, 50 Park Place (Student High Street) will be closed the week commencing 3rd August for one week only.
- Follow us on social media for daily updates on events and any other news and information we think will be of interest to you, follow us twitter: studentlifecu like us on facebook: studentlifecu.
Sarah, Student Intern, Counselling, Health & Wellbeing Team
Your Student Life, Supported.
Advice & Money I Careers & Employability I Counselling, Health & Wellbeing I Disability & Dyslexia I International Student Support