Whether it’s a close friend, family member or peer, or even yourself, it’s likely you personally know someone who has dealt with a mental health challenge at some point. College and transitioning to adulthood are especially vulnerable periods for everyone, and often the time when students may begin experiencing issues with their mental health. A 2022 national survey of undergraduates found that more than half of respondents said their mental health worsened during their college years.
With this in mind, it’s important to pause to look at what we at Indiana University can do to best help ourselves and those in need around us.
“We often talk about being an ally when it comes to LGBTQ+ and other communities; we need to extend this to mental health as well, and all learn to become mental health allies,” IU Chief Health Officer Aaron Carroll said. “We know some of our students take advantage of the mental health services available at IU, but I’m confident there are more students out there who could use help and have not yet reached out. This is one area where we can all work together and take care of each other.”
Carroll offers a few ways students can become mental health allies:
Know and understand the on-campus and virtual resources available
The university offers a number of on-campus and virtual services. One of the best places to start is the Student Mental Health website. Here, you can search by campus and by type of service to find what’s best for you or a peer.
In addition, all enrolled students now have access to free, 24/7 virtual mental health services through TimelyCare. You can download the TimelyCare app, register, and then access services whenever and wherever you may need them.
Encourage your friends to download and register now, even if they don’t currently require services. Knowing that resource is ready and available instantly when you may need it is a great first step.
Ask how you can help
It sounds simple, but just talking to a friend who is struggling or changing their behavior and asking how you can help goes a long way. Listen with empathy and meet your friend where they are.
Some people may be ready to hear suggestions for reaching out for help; others may benefit from a caring, listening ear and knowing they’re not alone. You can also share any struggles you’ve had. Become a safe space that allows others to share their story comfortably.
And, if you need help getting the conversation started, check out the I Care About U page on the Student Mental Health website.
Help reduce the stigma around mental health
Talking about mental health as part of our overall health is a good way to start. We wouldn’t shame someone with type 1 diabetes for needing insulin. We need to look at mental health the same way. We’re all wired differently, have had different experiences and will respond to our life experiences in different ways.
There are a number of student organizations that are working across all campuses to normalize talking about mental health, asking for help and reducing the stigma.
Take care of yourself
By taking care of yourself, you’re more able to help those around you. Self-care can be as simple as stepping outside and taking a deep breath in the sunshine. Do the same for yourself as you would for a friend. Use TimelyCare and other resources on your campus, and talk with your friends, family or other trusted people in your life, including the faculty you interact with every day.