Talking about Mental Health

Talking with your Student about Mental Health

We want to emphasize a very important resource for your student’s wellbeing: YOU! Speaking to your student directly about mental health concerns can have a huge, helpful impact on them. Here are some tips for how to talk with your student successfully:

  • Talk to your student as soon as you notice something unusual or concerning about their behavior.
  • Indicate the specific behavior(s) causing you concern, and express your concern in a caring manner. For example, “I notice you’ve been sleeping between 10-12 hours. This is unlike you, and I’m concerned about you. I care about you, and I’m here to support you.”
  • Talk to them in a private setting, when you both have enough time and energy for a conversation.
  • Ask open-ended questions, such as, “How have you been feeling about your friendships lately?”
  • Listen attentively to what your student says, and try to respond without judgment or criticism.
  • Asking how you can help goes a long way. Sometimes, your student may want advice, but other times, they may just want you to listen and understand, for example by saying, “That sounds very painful.”
  • Try not to under- or over-react. Your student experiencing a mental health concern is not a catastrophe, but it also needs to not be ignored.
  • Follow up on how your student is doing and if their situation is improving.
  • Encourage your student that there is hope and that they will, in all likelihood, feel better with care, support, and action.
  • Help your student to define the problem they are facing and generate possible ways to handle it. Avoid the temptation to just solve it for them. Ask them their solutions before offering your own.
  • Know your limits as a helper. Family can do a great deal, but sometimes, professional help and expertise are needed, and this does not mean anything bad about you or your student. Encourage your student to reach out to us if their needs go beyond what you can provide. Be clear about why you think mental health services could help them.
  • Encourage your student that seeking help when it is needed is positive. You may wish to share with your student that many Temple students come to see us, for a variety of reasons.
  • Once you have suggested mental health services, allow your student to make their own decision about engaging, except in emergency situations. Ask directly if your student is thinking about harming themselves or others. For example, “Are you thinking about suicide?” If you believe your student is in imminent danger of harming themselves or others, please call Campus Safety Services (215–204–1234) or 9-1-1.