You can follow the tips below to have a healthy discussion with friends about what it means to not be OK:
Identify the triggers – try to recognise what makes your friend uncomfortable, and how your friend acts when they are unhappy. This may be that they go quiet or have trouble breathing.
Ask open questions – ‘how do you feel?’, ‘when did this start?’, ‘are you ok?’
Prepare yourself – choose your moment and be prepared for the answer ‘no, I’m not’
Give attention and respect - give your friend the time and space to talk openly and don’t pressure them for a specific answer.
Be non-judgemental – people want to feel comfortable when confiding, so the worst thing you can do is be antagonistic or condescending
Don’t feel pressured to say the right thing – just listen and be honest
Get extra support – signpost your friend to a safe place, whether that be the SU Advice Sevice, Student Support Services, Nightline, college welfare, local organisations or helplines. Find a range of contacts here.
Make time – make sure your friend knows that you’re there for them. Try drawing up a plan together of how to approach their troubles, but be aware that you can’t “fix” wellbeing issues so you won’t have all of the answers.
Take care of your own wellbeing – do not blame yourself, make sure you take time for yourself such as sleeping, joining a sports club or society, and get help should you need it. You need to put boundaries in place to safeguard yourself, such as letting your friend know that your phone may be switched off at night but you can make time for them in the day.
Poor mental health is an illness, not a choice – so it should be treated as such.