College students are warned all the time that they may feel depressed, anxious, or stressed during their time in school. While many guides online give helpful tips for taking care of your own mental and emotional health, it may seem more difficult to support someone else who is struggling. Maybe you have noticed that your friend, roommate, or classmate seems down or distant lately. Perhaps they have been skipping sleep, class, or meals. You may even feel them withdrawing from your friendship. If you are ever worried about a friend who seems to be going through a difficult time, there are several ways you can support them (and yourself).
Start a conversation.
Try bringing up to your friend that you have noticed they seem down. Plan the time and place of this conversation with care; choose somewhere comfortable and private if possible. Try to spend most of the time listening compassionately and supportively. As much as you want to help your friend fix their problems, don’t automatically jump to giving them advice and solutions. Take a while to empathize with what they are feeling, then focus on working out small ways you can support them as they deal with their situation.
Accept your friend for where they are.
Many times, people are afraid to reach out for help when they are going through a difficult time because they do not want to burden their loved ones. Let your friend know that you appreciate their friendship no matter what, and accept that your time with them might not be as light-hearted for now. Building trust in this difficult period will strengthen your friendship in the long-run!
You are not solely responsible for supporting your friend. Let them know that there are other resources available for help. Most universities offer counseling or peer support services, and there are several free national support services as well, such as Crisis Text Line and ULifeline. It is ESPECIALLY important to bring in outside help if you feel that your friend is at risk of harming themselves or other people.
Check in with your friend again after a little while to see how they are doing or if there is anything else you can do to support them. It will keep you informed and help them to know that you still remember and care about them.
Take care of yourself, too.
You cannot single-handedly solve your friend’s problems (nor is it your responsibility), so don’t feel too down on yourself. It is also important to take care of your own emotional and mental wellbeing; you can’t pour from an empty cup. Consider reaching out to other friends or professional services so that you get the support you need as well.