How do you discuss mental health with friends?
Updated: Jul 27, 2020
See what Jordan and Adithya from Cockrell School Cares (CSC) have to say about discussing mental health with friends.
Q: How do you discuss mental health with friends?
Hey reader! This post is brought to you by Jordan Blumberg and Adithya Chunangad from Cockrell School Cares. Our organization promotes mental health, diversity, and inclusion within the Cockrell School of Engineering, and we want to provide some suggestions for communicating about mental health. Before we get to that, we would like to remind you that the Cockrell School Cares doors are always open for you to ask questions, seek advice, and learn more about how you can be involved on campus. We are here to help you navigate through the difficulties of college and COVID, no matter where you are.
Talking to Your Friends
Struggles with mental health can take many different forms; two of the most common in the United States are depression and anxiety. We have many close friends who are affected in their day to day lives and have needed help to work through difficult days. We are here to help you figure out how to talk to your friends about mental health and support them through tough times.
Depression and Anxiety
According to the World Health Organization, over 250 million people across the world suffer from depression. If you find it hard to wrap your head around that number, the equivalent would be filling the DKR Stadium over 2,500 times. The National Institute for Mental Health estimates that over 30% of US adults have experienced some form of anxiety during their lives, which is about 100 million people, or the equivalent of filling the DKR Stadium 1000 times. Whether you are reading this for yourself or to help a friend, you are not alone in this. Here are three pieces of advice on how to open a discussion about mental health with your friends.
I. Listen: The best thing you can do is be available to listen to their feelings, but this is not always done through verbal cues. While it is okay to ask someone how they are feeling, they are under no obligation to tell you. Recognizing shifts in moods, behaviors, or body language are all ways to listen to your friends. Try to avoid the phrase, “it’s going to be okay,” and instead opt for phrases like, “I’m right here with you,” “I’m going to be with you the entire time,” and “Can I get you anything, or is there something I can do to help?” Be prepared for them to try and push you away. My friends are often scared of being a burden or adding too much stress to my life. Assure them that you want to help in whatever capacity you can, but do not press for answers if they have made it clear they are not ready to discuss what is on their mind. Instead say, “I really want to be able to help you and be there for you. When you feel comfortable talking about it, please let me know and I’ll be there for you.” Keep in mind that there are other ways to help: a hug can go a long way, you singing their favorite song to them, or telling bad jokes to see even a glimmer of a smile help to ease their pain. There is no one right way to help your friends but it is important to discuss it both when they’re going through it and when they are not.
II. Learn: You are already on the right track by reading our post. By taking the time to learn about mental health issues, you can work towards getting rid of the stigmas surrounding them. This will assist with judgment-free discussions and help to establish trust between you and your friends. While you may not understand exactly what they are going through, there are thousands and thousands of people who are in the same position as you, wanting to help. Some useful websites you can visit are the World Health Organization, the National Institute of Mental Health, and Mental Health America. Also recognize that research about mental health is continual and more methods of providing assistance are in the works. For example, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is developing a 3-digit phone number for immediate assistance (988) - to be completed by 2022. For more direct and personalized assistance, please refer to our resources below.
III. Take Care of Yourself: We know you want to do everything you possibly can to help your friends, but if you are overwhelmed with emotions, family, or schoolwork, you won’t be able to help your friends like you want to. One way you can do this is to set boundaries. If you are at work or in class trying to help, your focus will likely be split between the two, and the conversation will not be as productive and helpful as possible. Establish an alternative resource for your friend during busy times, whether that is another friend, a trusted adult, or a crisis hotline. You may also wish to have a code word if there is an emergency. During all of this, make sure you are still taking time for yourself to de-stress and rest so that you can be better prepared to help your friends.
Resources for You: We hope this post has provided some insight into starting discussions about mental health with your friends and how you can help them with their struggles. Here are a few resources we have compiled for you to stay connected and prioritize your well-being:
UT Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC):
During regular business hours (M-F, 8-5): (512) 471-3515
24/7 CMHC Crisis Line: (512) 471-CALL (2255)
Visit https://cmhc.utexas.edu/ for a comprehensive list of their offerings
Integral Care 24/7 Crisis Helpline: 512-472-HELP (4357)
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453)
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Nationwide RAINN (Sexual Assault) Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
Resources to help people cope with the COVID-19 pandemic:
Texas HHS COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line: 833-986-1919
Disaster Distress Helpline: Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
For general health-related information and precautions on COVID-19, people can visit the DSHS webpage and the CDC webpage
Connect with us directly:
Cockrell School Cares is an organization focused on promoting awareness for mental health and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Cockrell School of Engineering. We want to build a community for engineers and create a safe space to engage in conversation with each other.
This blog post was written by Jordan Blumberg from CSC. Jordan is a sophomore electrical and computer engineering student and is CSC's External Outreach Co-Lead.