Skip to main content

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