How can we support students with ‘mental health problems’?



“As long as you are willing to be depression free, as long as you have the desire to be depression free there is no fear to who you will be without depression.”


Jacqueline Mary Phillips


A recent BBC news item mentioned that a report published in autumn showed the numbers of students disclosing mental health problems had increased fivefold in a decade. Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham and a campaigner on student well-being, said: "Student suicide rates and emotional distress levels could be reduced at university if we acted differently.”


I have been increasingly aware of the number of students who seem to be struggling with what is commonly termed ‘mental health problems’. I am NOT a health professional in terms of possessing the clinical skills to diagnose these symptoms nor do I wish to discuss the possible causes of these increasingly distressing claims. I am merely musing here about how we can support these young students even before they get to the stage of suffering some kind of distress. I am talking about the duty of care and a genuine human concern about another’s well-being.


What do students tell me?


I have been a keen practitioner of the SEJ as it has taught me so much about the importance of being fully engaged in the moment, paying full attention and acting from true genuine love and compassion for another. I see students looking less than their usual self, often lost in thoughts and just not looking ‘themselves’. I see students who are looking vulnerable, out of sorts and, despite their youth, not looking energetic but quite frankly worn down by life. I started asking them questions about how they were or simply saying hello.


I remember a particularly chirpy first year male student who was missing some classes, when I saw him I just called him by his name and he said ’… oh you remembered my name..,’ as if he has never been called by it before. I wept as it struck me how a connection such as remembering their name means so much to them. This is NOT just for students but for anyone!!!


Another student, who has complex mental and physical challenges, simply looked at me more than once and said “I just want to get better and be myself, I don't want to be taking medications for the rest of my life.” They also repeatedly told me that they didn't want counselling as they did NOT want to talk about the past over and over as it’s all in the past. They were exasperated by their desire to move forward themselves but unable to do so as they didn't feel they were supported except being given medication.


So how can we support them?


I offer no solution as I am not an expert but what I am proposing here is this:

  • Pay attention to them as an individual

  • LISTEN to them with genuine interest

  • See them as a whole person without illness/conditions

  • Have genuine concern and love from one human being to another

Be there for them, act differently, be their support when they need you, is that too much to ask?


Dr M Howard-Kishi


If you would like to know more here is a Youtube link from Jacqueline in answered questions 'I am scared of how / who I will be without depression'.









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