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Creating Safe Spaces: Supporting roommate Mental health

By Ingrid Moreno

Dealing with a mental issue can affect every aspect of your life, such as relationships with others, academics, professional, and personal life. Although sometimes we take mental health for granted by prioritizing other tasks and responsibilities, setting self-care aside, and causing you to be worn out, this is a quite common situation that could happen to many students, including your roommate. If you suspect your roommate is dealing with a mental health issue and are not sure how to help them, The Buccaneer shared below six tips to assist them without neglecting your health in the process.

Graphic Credit to NAMI

Tip 1-Pay Attention to Changes in Behavior

When living with a roommate who is battling mental health issues, it is important to become aware of what they are struggling with. If you notice extreme changes in mood, behavior, and appearance, look it into it. Research symptoms related to depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental issues they could be experiencing. Additionally, express your concern to them about their recent changes, encouraging them to get professional help.


Tip 2-Form A Bond with Them

Forming a respectful relationship with your roommate is important, as you both will be sharing your space. You should work with your roommate to create a safe space, where you can address your concerns with one another to create a bond. When someone struggles with mental health, it can be difficult to open up, which is why letting them know you care, and you are ready to listen, makes it easier for them to communicate their thoughts and worries better. Do not forget to do small, nice gestures by asking them to hang out, share a meal, pick up the dorm together, or do something you both enjoy.

According to Dr. Ashley Austen, a social work professor at Barry, the best way to support a roommate with mental health issues is by being “compassionate, nonjudgmental, and empathetic."

Tip 3-Get Proper Help

Photo Credit to National Louis University

Dealing with mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and addictions is difficult without the proper care. Ask your roommate how you can help if you feel it is needed. You can ask if they would like you to reach out to a mental healthcare service on their behalf.

Barry provides psychological services to registered students at the center for counseling. The counseling service is given to students with no extra fee and walk-in appointments are even available for students going through a crisis. You can let them know they can contact the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, which is located in Landon Student Union 105, or call them at 305-899-3950.

Getting the proper treatment for a mental illness is important. Therapy, counseling, medication, and social support can help improve your roommate’s mental health, as long as they are ready and willing to start the recovery process. It is most important to respect their decision.


Tip 4- Set Boundaries

Since you want your dorm to have a positive environment, rules and boundaries could be good for both you and your roommate. One of these rules should be to maintain your privacy, respect each other’s schedules, and communicate before making a decision that could affect both. Conversations and situations that happen in the dorm should go unspoken with other people, the exception being if you believe your roommate is in danger of hurting themselves or others. In this case, reach out to a mental health professional.

Barry provides residents with a way to set boundaries with a Roommate Agreement, which residents must sign with their roommate to establish their desired time to go to bed, to study, and more to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Tip 5- Take Care of Yourself

While you are supporting your roommate, it is equally important to do a mental check with yourself to ensure that you are doing okay, and your mental health is not being affected in the process. Make sure to prioritize yourself even as you help your roommate.

Photo Credit to Chatelaine

Austen emphasizes the importance of being “self-compassionate,” meaning you should set boundaries and take breaks because as she mentioned, “you can’t be a support to your roommate if you don’t have anything else to give.” These boundaries should include balancing the time spent helping roommates with time spent “filling ourselves up with what we need, whether is spiritual, exercise, sleep, or things that bring you joy, that makes you emotionally strong and be a good shoulder to lean on.”

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