Supporting Students with Mental Health Concerns

Sometimes you will have to invite reticent individuals to talk about their mental health concerns The following are some tips on how to begin a conversation. Please note that some individuals may not readily accept a referral to counsleing.

  • Be direct
    • “I’ve been noticing ________, how are you feeling?”
    •   “Have you ever had a period in your life before now when you’ve felt this way?
    •  “What do you know about depression/anxiety?”
    •  “Do you have an eating disorder?”
    •  “Has anyone in your family gone through this before?”
  • Keep the discussion centered on their issue. This situation might evoke anxiety, but try not to make the conversation about your anxiety. Keep it relevant to their issues.
  • Talk to the person about what you have observed and why you are concerned.
  • Express your observations clearly-avoid judgment in the moment
  • Be genuine
  • —Listen - most people just want to be heard and validated in the moment
    • Reflect what you hear, “What I hear you to be saying is __________.”
    • Empathy, “That must be really tough for you.” or “It sounds like you’re feeling really overwhelmed.”
    • Avoid judgments or assumptions

Some dos and don’ts of helping out:

Do:

  • Spend time talking about their experiences
  • Listen intently-with care and concern:
    • maintain eye contact
    • use open-ended questions
  • Make the issue about the other person’s needs
  • Remain calm regardless of the individual’s reactions
  • Let them know you are noticing changes in their behavior
  • Encourage them to seek professional help (licensed metal health care provider).
  • Assist them in making initial contacts with health care providers.
  • Follow up-keep in regular contact and encourage them to get the help they need.

Don't:

  • Expect them to follow through with everything you suggest
  • Pressure or guilt them into an appointment with a professional
  • Avoid or alienate them
  • Try to offer solutions to fix the problem (e.g., “stay busy”; “smile more!”; “snap out of it”; “suck it up…”; “you need to date more!”; etc.)
  • Help them avoid their issues
  • Assume the problem will go away