Did you know?
Many students experience emotional problems but don’t talk about them and don’t seek help. Friends are often the first person a student turns to when things get tough. It is therefore important to be alert to signs that things are not going well. Listening, asking how things are and if there is anything you can do can be a great help. You don’t have to be an expert to mean something to a friend.
What can you do?
- Don’t take it personally. Is your friend snippy or distant? Don’t think, “What did I do wrong?” but rather, “What’s going on?”.
- Ask what is wrong. Have a conversation, name the signs that are worrying you and express your concerns. By talking openly and asking questions, you can assess the seriousness of the problem together. This question can be a good conversation starter: “I noticed that you have not been yourself lately. Is that right? I’m a bit worried.”
- Listen and don’t interrupt your friend. Let them talk, be understanding and do not judge. You don’t have to give advice or offer solutions right away. If you don’t know what to say, just say so. That can also start a conversation.
- Convince them to seek help. Stay true to your role, remember that you are a friend and not a professional. You don’t have to fix the problem. Talk and motivate your friend to seek help. There are people at colleges and universities who can lend a listening ear. Refer them to this offer. Say, “Will you come with me to get help?” or “Let me help you to get help.”
- Keep in touch and do things together. Try to be there for your friend. Regularly ask how things are going. Send a message and let them know you are thinking about them. Take the initiative to do something fun together and make concrete suggestions. Also ask what you can do.
What not to say
- You are making it worse than it is.
- It will pass. Don’t worry about it.
- Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
- You’re just imagining it all.
- It could have been much worse.
- I know exactly how you feel.
- Just don’t think about it anymore.
Do not write yourself off. Take care of yourself.
- Protect your boundaries. Emotional problems can weigh heavily on you. So take care of your own carrying capacity; it makes no sense to completely forget about yourself. Regularly schedule quality time for yourself and don’t neglect your other friends.
- Is it too much to handle? Some problems are too big for you to bear alone. You can also turn to your GP or a psychologist with your concerns about a fellow student or friend. The student counselling service of your college or university is also there for you.
- Seek contact with fellow sufferers. There are initiatives that focus on the needs of loved ones. Discover an overview of such initiatives here.
Would you, as a student, like to become more skilled in recognising signs of problems and learning how to support others? Discover where you can find guidance:
- A number of colleges and universities organise basic training courses teaching you how to recognise the signs and start a conversation. Ask your student counselling service about this.
- You can also learn a lot about mental health and emotional problems on MoodSpace.
- The Red Cross offers a course in First Aid for Psychological Problems (abbreviated as EHBP in Dutch).