Supporting a Friend’s Mental Health during Exam Periods
As we all know, exam periods can be a time of heightened stress and anxiety. It is not uncommon for the pressure of an exam period to affect someone’s mood or impact their wellbeing.
It is always a good idea to talk about how you are feeling, but when you start to feel concerned about a friend, it can be difficult to know what to do. One of the best ways that you can support a friend is to simply have a conversation and listen to how they are feeling.
You may be feeling unsure about how to go about this. Below are some tips to help you have a conversation with a friend about mental health.
“Are you alright?”
If you are feeling worried about a friend, one of the best things you can do is check in with them. Something as simple as voicing your concerns and asking if they are okay can make a huge difference.
If you are opening up a dialogue, it is important that you are prepared to listen. Serious conversations are less beneficial when they take place as you are rushing to an exam or in the middle of a group study session! Try to find a quiet place where you can talk openly with your friend and where you will both feel comfortable.
“I’m here if you want to talk”
If your friend doesn’t feel like talking, let them know that they can always come to you if they change their mind. Showing that you care reminds them that you are there to talk to if they ever feel like opening up.
If your friend does feel like talking, encourage them to express how they are feeling. Be non-judgemental and be prepared to listen.
“That sounds difficult”
Conversations about mental health are important – you should never make a joke out of how someone is feeling. Don’t treat your friend’s feelings flippantly. Something that might not seem like a big deal to you, could be a big deal to someone else.
In saying that, don’t feel like you need to provide all the answers! Acknowledging and validating your friend’s feelings is realistically one of the most important things you can do.
“What do you mean by that? I want to make sure I understand correctly”
You definitely do not have to be an expert to have a conversation with a friend about mental health. If your friend says something that you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
In fact, asking questions to make sure you understand what your friend is saying also helps them to know that they are being heard.
“What can I do?”
Ask your friend if there are any ways that you can support them – reassure them that they are not alone and that you are on their side.
It’s important to remember that the aim of this conversation is to show your friend that they have a support system, not to diagnose them or provide a solution. Instead of trying to provide all the answers, why not refer them to some great websites for further support. These include reachout, headspace and beyondblue.