University can be a hard time for any student. It is probably their first time away from home, and usually they will be living with complete strangers. Couple this with the stress of coursework and you could have a recipe for loneliness, confusion, desperation and despair. If you’re worried about your housemate, here are five things you should look out for:
Have they given up their interests? Perhaps your housemate used to play a lot of sport before coming to university, they could have even signed up to a university club, but they don’t seem to care much about it anymore.
Has their sleeping pattern changed? Your normally active housemate is now generally fatigued throughout the day and restless at night.
Are they eating more/less? You’ve noticed that your housemate seems to either be eating way more than usual, or not eating much at all.
Are they more irritable? Your housemate could be more snappy than usual and getting worked up about seemingly minor things.
Have they increased ‘risky’ behaviour? Your housemate could be drinking more heavily or putting themselves in dangerous situations which they previously would not have done.
It is important to remember that the above can be a part of normal life in small doses. But if you notice that your housemate has been doing these more days than not for a period of two weeks or longer, they might be struggling with their mental health.
What can you do?
You have a couple of options if you think your housemate is struggling.
The first option is to approach them yourself if you feel comfortable to. If you do this, you need to have empathy, and you need to avoid taking their behaviour as a personal attack on you. Use wording such as: “I’ve noticed you seem a bit down lately, I just wanted to let you know that I’m here for you if you want to talk.” Avoid saying things like: “What’s wrong with you?”
If you’re housemate is open to talking, it might be useful to have resources to hand such as counselling services, or options the university might offer.
The second option is to let their family/friends know. If you don’t feel like you’re able to approach them, consider approaching people who are closer to your housemate.
Above all these options, remember to take care of yourself in the process, as it can be emotionally draining being someone else’s emotional support. Taking care of your own wellbeing will mean that you’ll be in a better headspace when your housemate needs your support.
There are always services that can help you if you need support. The Samaritans offer a 24-hour phone service for anyone who needs help, the number for this is: 08457 90 90 90.
Our vision for the Charlie Watkins Foundation can be found here. We are aiming to turn a problem into a solution for university students.