My roommate just let me know that she is taking next term off from school to focus on managing her anxiety and depression. I'm really glad she told me because I had no idea she was struggling, but I don't know what to do. We aren't very close and I don't want to intrude, but I'd like to do whatever I can to support her. What should I do?
I would say that you should do just that: support her.
That doesn’t always mean going to appointments with her or being involved in that capacity, but it can mean asking her to meet for coffee, surprising her with your signature dish or even just saying “I’m here if you need me.”
Not being too close with your roommate may make you feel like you can’t help her at all, but it’s important to show and offer your support. If she doesn’t take you up on it, don’t take it personally. At least she knows that you’re in her corner.
Of course, there are things you shouldn’t do. Don’t diminish a person’s experience. Even if someone’s mental illness doesn’t meet your criteria of mental illness, that doesn’t mean that it’s not real, valid and that they are struggling.
Your roommate’s depression and anxiety are incredibly real to them, and validating their experiences can make it a little less lonely.
However, while offering support is important and needed, it’s very easy to completely forget to take care of yourself too — setting boundaries and practicing self-care can ensure that you’re looking after yourself, not just your roommate.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule on how to help someone with anxiety and depression, but offering your roommate support is a place to start. If she wants your support, great. If she doesn’t, it’s okay! You’re still there for her.
If you want a great UBC-based student perspective on mental health, check out Mind Your Mind, a biweekly column written by UBC’s own Daphnée Lévesque.
You’re doing great. Keep it up!
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