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:
- 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.
- 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