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Student mental health: how you can support friends who might be struggling

It's easy to assume everyone has their workload under control. However, this is not always the case.

In March, the University of Nottingham created an eye-opening display of shoes on the steps of the Portland Building in honour of suicide awareness week: 95 pairs of shoes for the 95 students who lost their lives in England and Wales in 2017 and 2018. This large number brings into question whether or not universities offer enough support to their students and whether or not the workload is too much.

Going to university is a big change from high school and college, with most students moving away from home. This means that not only do they have a significantly increased workload but they also now have to fend for themselves with the cooking, food shopping, washing and cleaning, all while balancing a social life. There are plenty of ways to reach out to your friends, family and loved ones when they are put under this amount of stress—hopefully this article can give you a few ideas, as well as online resources to help.

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A post shared by Headspace (@headspace) on

Technology is often seen as a distraction, but lately there has been an influx of helpful meditation apps that promote wellness and mindfulness, or even ones that help you to stay off your phone and concentrate on your work.

These helpful apps include:

Calm - this app is great for meditation and is totally free to use

Headspace - this app is similar to Calm, allows you to meditate for free. Meditation is a great way to unwind and focus your mind, promoting better mental health

Flora - grow your own forest with this virtual app. Plant a tree and watch it grow as you remain on the app to keep your focus and stop yourself from a scroll across social media. This app has a competitive element that lets you climb the leader board if you're more productive

Happy Colour - this app promotes mindfulness by letting you colour in, and if mobile apps aren't your thing, why not use an adult colouring book to unwind and take your mind off what's stressing you out?

There are other ways that you can show support for a friend who is going through a tough time. You could use some of the following suggestions to cheer a friend up:
Cook for your friend

Whether you live with them or if you invite them round, offering to cook for a friend one will save them from slaving over the hob when they could either be doing more work or unwinding and is a great way to check up on how things are with them. Additionally, you could get takeaway and throw on a movie to help them take their minds off of their long, hard day at uni.

Offer to do some of their chores
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A post shared by Sophie Hinchliffe (@mrshinchhome) on

With the university workload, it's easy to let things slide. Cleaning is often neglected, but this actually has the effect of making someone feel more stressed in an untidy environment. It's just a reminder of another thing on their to-do list. If they're your housemate or family member it's quite easy to go out of your way to do some extra cleaning for them. They may say no, but it's nice to know the offer is there. If they need anything picking up and you're on the way to the shop, ask if they need anything. If you're taking some clothes to the launderette, why not ask if they need anything done too?

Make a care package

Whether that's buying them their favourite snacks or sending them a nice motivational message, a weeks supply of Pot Noodles or offering to buy them a coffee—the little gestures often mean the most. Care-packages can be a sweet and helpful way of showing you care, making sure to include helpful products that will get your friends and family through tough times. Bach Rescue are a great brand that makes Rescue Pastilles that reduce anxiety and pillow mists to help you sleep, they've definitely helped me out in the past and maybe they'll help your loved ones too. Showing support to your friends and trying to cheer them up when they feel down and stressed may just be the boost they need to keep going.

Offer your advice
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Hello everyone! I am officially done with second year & on vacation! I started my vacation by waking up to 500 followers so THANK YOU so much for all of the love! It means a lot to me ❤️❤️❤️ • • I spent my morning working, cleaning & doing laundry but will be going out tonight to celebrate the end of the year! I plan on posting some reflections on 2nd year (& my overall HS to college experience) in the coming week if you are interested! • • Thank you for all of the support, I love taking these pictures & interacting with you guys! Have a wonderful Wednesday! ? • • 1. App: @goodnotesapp 5 2. Tablet: iPad Pro 2018 11’’ 3. Stylus: Apple Pencil 2 4. Wallpaper: @momentumdash

A post shared by Sarah’s Studygram ?? (@sicistudies) on

If they're struggling, why not share your insights and give them a little bit of help? Additionally, you can encourage them to reach out to their seminar tutors or try and find some helpful articles to make their lives a bit easier.

Offer to go out with them to take their mind off things

Sometimes it's easy to become isolated in your studies, as it takes away any distractions or pressure. However, this can be harmful to their mental health as they may end up feeling alone, overwhelmed and helpless. Offer to go out with them for a few hours or offer to watch a film or have a chat with them over a cup of coffee. Sometimes a few hours away from your work is the best way to recharge. However, don't take it personally if they say no and don't make them feel guilty for it; everyone works differently and they may just not have the time. Check up on them to make sure they're doing okay and let them know that they have your support.

Be positive

Whenever you talk to someone struggling, try to remain a positive influence in their life. Offer words of encouragement, support and motivation. Cheer them on and tell them that whatever grade they get, they have done their best. Let them know you're proud of them.

Use online mental health resources

There are plenty of ways to support the people around you. And, if you can't do this in person, there are also plenty of other ways to help, including online resources Mind Charity UK, Moodzone via the NHS, Better Help, or the Mental Health Advisory Service if you're from the University of Nottingham (although other universities also offer this). Helplines can also be found here.

Make sure to check up on your friends and family this exam season and let them know that you're there to support them and want them to be happy and healthy.
Featured image: Brooke Cagle on Unsplash