See what Eduardo, Lydia, and Aly from Pi Sigma Pi (PSP) have to say about discussing mental health with friends.
Q: How do you discuss mental health with friends?
A: Hi it’s your Pi family here :) This is a great question! We believe that maintaining your mental health is very important to your overall well-being and with everything surrounding the ongoing pandemic, we know that mental health may be prone to suffer at times. But one of the easiest ways to avoid this can be to reach out to friends and discuss these topics with them. Here are some tips on how to best have these conversations:
1. Educate Yourself and Create a Safe Space
Before approaching friends, it is probably best to sit down and educate yourself about mental health conditions and precautions to take when dealing with mental health. This will help you avoid potentially harming or offending your friends and hopefully provide you with more information to help them out if they are dealing with something. Once you feel more confident about your knowledge, it is important to create a safe space for yourself and your friends. This doesn’t have to be much more than just setting up a casual environment where everyone feels comfortable with being themselves and speaking their truth. In addition, it would be nice to emphasize that y’all love and care for each other and, therefore, there are no bad or harmful intentions with anything that is discussed. Also, remember that mental health is not an easy subject for everyone to talk about as each of y’all have likely had different experiences surrounding your mental well-being. That is why you should make sure to support your friends unconditionally, regardless of whether they choose to discuss certain things or not.
2. Be Open-Minded and Listen
We know that conversations like these are not always the easiest to have, but we’ve found it helpful to enter them with an open mind and a determination to listen. Put aside any possible preconceived judgements or criticisms of one another. Avoid any sources of distraction, such as cell phones or noisy environments. Practice active listening by reaffirming and rephrasing what your friends say, assuring them that they have your full undivided attention. Though it’s not something we generally think about often, body language is just as important when it comes to listening. Positive body language such as eye contact and relaxed open arms can go a long way in making everyone feel heard and included.
3. Use Your Own Experiences to Help and Learn
Sometimes it can be difficult to understand what a friend is going through if you yourself have not had a similar experience before. However, it is important that you speak from your personal experiences and perspective as: 1) you are able to stay true to yourself and speak on what you know, and 2) you may provide them with an outlook on things that they had never thought about before. It would also be very helpful to understand the difference between sympathy and empathy. While having sympathy for someone means that you are able to share their feelings, showing empathy for them means that you are able to put yourself in their emotional state and understand why they have those feelings. We believe that speaking from your own experiences and showing empathy for your friends can tremendously help y’all learn from each other and grow on a personal level.
4. Check-in with Each Other
Once the conversation has been had and everyone feels good about what was discussed, make sure to stay in touch and check in with each other from time to time. Doing this will not only help ensure that y’all are okay and feeling well but is also a great way to start up the conversation again if anyone feels like they need it at that moment. In addition, mental health conditions have the ability to manifest physically so it would also be helpful to learn more about meditation and different ways to manage your mental health. At the same time, we wouldn’t want the thought of mental health to stress you out either so give yourself a break and find other activities to do with your friends to help take your mind off of things. With that said, if you do happen to believe that your friend should seek out additional and/or professional help, we have provided information on extra mental health resources later in this post. Remember that you love your friends and they love you, so don’t be afraid to reach out to each other if you notice any of y’all are not feeling great.
5. Advocate for Mental Health in Your Communities
Currently, we live in a time where practicing social distancing and quarantining at home are the safest ways to protect yourselves and your loved ones. However, we realize that the lack of physical interactions with friends can negatively impact your well-being, especially your mental health. Therefore, we believe that is important to advocate for mental health education and resources in your communities. From workplaces to church communities to student organizations to friends and family. Shedding light on such a relevant topic that is mental health can significantly help make these communities a safe space in which everyone involved can trust and support each other, and the more each of us become comfortable with discussing our mental health, the more likely we will able to get rid of any stigmas surrounding these necessary conversations.
We hope our advice can help you further think about mental health and discussing it with your friends. As mentioned earlier, we believe that good mental health is vital to your overall well-being - which is why we started our own biweekly mental health workshop last year called Mindful Moments. Here, we want to help our members focus on their mental health through various destressing and relaxation activities that have included painting, mindful conversations, and guided meditation. We have recently started hosting these again during the summer, and everyone is welcome to join! Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or comments about anything - or even if you just want someone to talk to! Once again, we have also provided some additional resources below that you may find helpful. A huge thank you to SWE for giving us this opportunity to share our thoughts with y’all! Stay safe and continue to take care of each other :)
Additional Mental Health Resources
UT Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC)
Appointments/Cancellations - (512) 471-3515
Crisis Line for Students - 512-471-CALL (2255)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Hotline - 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
National Suicide Prevention Hotline - 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline - 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
Crisis Text Line - Text HOME to 741741
Learn more at crisistextline.org
Texas HHS COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line - 1-833-986-1919
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Pi Sigma Pi Minority Academic Engineering Society is an organization that is here for every student looking for their community at UT, regardless of their major, year, identity or background. We understand that college can be very challenging at times, so we provide our members with as many resources as they may need to succeed in every way. Socials, test banks, guidance for first years, mental health/destress workshops, pre-college outreach, corporate networking opportunities, IM sports, community service events - you name it! We do whatever we can to help because we care for everyone as family🧡
This blog post was written by Eduardo Hernandez, Lydia Sevier, and Aly Guerra from PSP. Eduardo is a junior aerospace engineering student and is PSP's VP External. Lydia is a senior biomedical engineering student and is a PSP member. Aly is a sophomore mechanical engineering student and is a PSP member.