How To Talk To Your Friends About Mental Health

Opening up to your friends can be the hardest part.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, a week dedicated to talking about mental health and highlighting the struggles so many people go through.

For uni students, if you’re struggling with your mental health it can feel so much worse being in a place away from home and it can be hard to reach out to your friends, especially if they’re new friends. In fact, even if you’re close friends with someone it can still be hard to talk about mental health and taking the first step is always the hardest.

This Mental Health Awareness week, we want to encourage you to have those important conversations with your friends, whether it’s about your mental health or theirs. Not everyone is comfortable opening up, but checking in with someone can make a huge difference.

So, how do you have those conversations?

How can I talk to my friends about my mental health?

Talking about your mental health is a huge step and can be really scary to do with friends you might not know that well, or if you don’t typically have serious conversations. However, the chances are your close friends care about you more than you think and will want to make sure you’re doing ok.

You could start by asking a friend if they’d like to meet up somewhere to have a catch-up somewhere that feels comfortable and safe for you. Some people like to chat in coffee shops but others might find it overwhelming being in public— it’s really up to you what works best.

Here are a few things you can do when you’re getting the conversation started:

  • Make sure you’re somewhere you feel comfortable
  • Write down what you want to say, as this can make it easier to remember things
  • Practice what you want to say first
  • Think about what questions they might ask and how you might answer them— but remember it’s ok if you don’t have all the answers
  • Think about what they could do to help and what support they could offer you
  • Think about what you want to get out of the conversation— it could be that you just need to talk to someone, or you might want your friends to offer you support in other ways
  • Be honest and open about how you’re feeling

Remember that while your friends will want to help you, they might not always know the best thing to say especially if this is completely new to them. They might need some time to process what you’ve told them and to think about how they can support you.

Try and think about how you would react to a friend opening up about their mental health to you, and what you would do for them in that scenario— this can help you to suggest what your friends can do for you.

How can I talk to my friends about their mental health?

Checking in on your friends is important as you never know what someone could be going through. It can be tricky to get that conversation going, especially if your friends are more introverted and don’t like to open up but the best way to support them is to literally just ask them how they’re doing and make time for having more serious conversations.

This doesn’t have to be anything too scary or out of the ordinary. It can be as simple as letting them know you miss them if you haven’t seen them in a while or going out for coffee to ask how they are and how they’re feeling— which could prompt them to open up if something’s on their mind.

You don’t always have to be talking directly about mental health to help someone who is struggling, sometimes just having a cha and making time for them can make a huge difference, especially if you can listen and show that you’re supportive and are there for them if they need you.

If you are having a more open and honest conversation about their mental health you can try asking them some of these questions:

“How can I support you?”

“How are you doing today?”

“Is there anything I can do to make things easier for you?”

“Would you like to have a coffee catchup regularly?”

“What plans could we make to take your mind off things?”

Of course, everyone is different and sometimes your friends might just want space but as long as you check in on them and listen to their needs they’ll hopefully feel supported and know that you’re there if they need you.

What advice do students have for other students?

We asked our Instagram followers what they needed to hear from someone else when they were struggling with their mental health or going through a particularly hard time. Here are some of the tips they shared:

“Talk to someone and take some time for yourself”

“When it comes to uni, just pass and anything else is a bonus”

“There’s always a rainbow after a storm”

“You won’t click with every doctor you speak with, so don’t let one bad experience with a doctor put you off seeking help”

“Sometimes it’s ok not to be ok and there’s always more support out there than you think”

Remember that no matter how hard things are, you’re never alone and we should be talking about mental health all year, not just on mental health awareness week.

Mental health websites and helplines

If you or anyone you know has been dealing with mental health issues or loneliness, check your university wellness team and see what resources are available to you or contact your GP to see what mental health services are available in your area.

If you or a friend are struggling here are some resources that can help you to find support:

  • Student Space from Student Minds – phone, text messaging and email support for students suffering from mental health problems or concerns about uni
  • Samaritans – call 116 123 for free 24/7
  • Nightline – most unis will run a confidential Nightline service
  • Mind – call 0300 123 3393 for support
  • HOPELINE UK — call 0800 068 41 41
  • Shout – text shout to 85258 to talk to someone via text message 24/7
  • CALM — call 0800 58 58 58