This section is for friends and family who want to help someone they know with a mental health problem who is studying or considering becoming a student.
Lots of students seek help from friends and family. Indeed a recent study of LGBTQ+ students found that nearly all respondents sought help or advice from friends for emotional problems.
I have bipolar disorder, and when I experience manic episodes it can be difficult for people to understand what I am experiencing. For me, it was very important to let my friends know how they expressed themselves, what it meant for me, and what they could do to support me day-to-day or in crisis.
Becoming a student involves many changes for friends and family. There are lots of things you can do to help manage these changes.
- Keep in touch – make the effort to be the one who stays in contact. Even if they appear very busy, they are likely to appreciate the effort.
- Make time to be together – visiting them where they are studying can give you the opportunity to understand more about their new life and feel more engaged. For some, student life can be busy, so finding dates that work might require patience and flexibility.
- Accept that things may change – they are likely to have made new friends, or have new commitments that take up their time.
- Ask them how they are doing – it doesn't have to be a serious conversation about mental health, but most people will appreciate being asked. If you are worried about how they are doing, creating time and space for an honest answer (go for a walk or do a joint activity such as crafting or even washing up) can help.
From the second my parents found out about my illness, everything was about supporting me but also trying to get things back to normal for me, and never about holding me back. They gave me endless support.
- Take an interest – try asking them about what they're working on at the moment or about their course.
- Give them space – if they have left home for the first time, remember that being a student is part of a process of gaining independence and growing up. It is natural that they don’t want to tell you everything.
- Offer practical help – offer help with a routine task, such as preparing or cooking food. This sort of thing will really be appreciated, and save them time and stress.
- Remember that studying can feel like a job – while they may not be going to a full time job, studying can take up a lot of time, involve long hours in lectures or busy work placements. Try to understand that they can feel under a lot of pressure, and offer them support.
Understand that student life isn't a walk in the park for everyone and it isn't necessarily the 'time of your life'.
- Look after yourself - supporting someone else can have an impact on your own mental health. For more information see:
This information was published in September 2018. We will revise it in 2021.