Mental Illness is a tricky topic for people to understand. However, I feel a person begins to meet and learn more about mental illness when he or she goes to college, and sometimes, the easiest way this happens is through the person’s roommate. It isn’t uncommon to meet someone with a mental illness in college, and if it happens to be your roommate, it can definitely be challenging. When your roommate has is dealing with a mental illness, it’s hard for that individual to confide in you at first. This can be a difficult time for both you and them. Therefore, if you happen to find yourself with a roommate dealing with mental illness, just take a step back and breathe. The tips I have provided for you will make the experience that you have with your roommate as smooth as possible.
1. Give Your Roommate Space
It’s truly the easiest thing a person can do for his or her roommate that’s dealing with mental illness. Your roommate is going to know what to do when he or she is suffering an anxiety attack or is feeling depressed- let him or her do his or her thing and he or she will feel better in time. If you are uncomfortable, do him or her a favor and leave the room for a bit. The worst thing you can do is kick him or her out of their private space, a space that might be helping due to the private touches. The individual also just wants to be alone, so please give them a bit of space.
2. Let Your Roommate Know You Are There
After the time has passed, let your roommate dealing with mental illness know you are there for him or her. You can say it personally or leave a small little note on his or her bed while he or she aren’t there, but that small little gesture will make a difference. It will also go into account whether he or she can trust you with the information.
3. The Little Things
Furthermore, little gestures such as notes, a treat, a quote, etc will instantly make your roommate feel better and continue to make him or her feel that he or she isn’t alone. Little gestures might brighten his or her day, put him or her in a better mood. One small act of kindness can really go a long way in these circumstances.
4. Simply Listen
If and when your roommate decides to confide in you about his or her mental illness, simply listen. Sit next to them, make direct eye contact even if he or she isn’t looking back, and listen to what he or she have to say and what he or she is willing to tell you. It might be a big step for him or her in telling you about something quite personal, so listen without judgement and with an open heart.
5. Encourage Your Roommate
Sometimes your roommate truly needs a bit of encouragement to do something. Therefore, if your roommate tells you he or she is debating doing something like going to hang out with a group of people or join a club, encourage her to give it a shot. Also, if he or she is struggling to make friends or socialize, invite him or her out continuously because he or she might say yes one day. Sometimes a little push and affirmation from someone is all he or she needs.
6. Ask Your Roommate About His or Her Day
This might seem a bit silly, but a simple question like “how was your day?” will continue to build the friendship and trust between you two. It will also help him or her feel like a normal person, which is usually all he or she wants to feel like.
7. Confide in Your Roommate
Earlier, I mentioned that you should listen to your roommate if he or she decides to confide in you about his or her mental illness; however, you should also confide in your roommate. It will show that you truly want to get to know him or her. I’m not saying that you should tell your roommate everything, but don’t hold back in confiding in him or her either because once you open up to him or her, he or she just might do the same.
8. Keep It To Yourself
A mental illness is private and exclusive knowledge to a person who suffers from it. That being said, whether you suspect your roommate suffering from one or your roommate has confirmed it, you should keep it yourself. It is his or her private knowledge to share with people, and you should respect that.
9. Try Not To Let Your Roommate’s Mental Illness Affect Your View
A person dealing with mental illness does not lead a normal life; therefore, he or she prefer to be treated like a normal human being. Simply have normal conversations, get to know him or her as an individual and see if you have anything in common with him or her because odds are you do. Also, do not assume that you understand what he or she is going through because everyone handles mental illness differently. Overall, just be yourself and treat him or her like any other roommate you would.
10. Tell A Trusted Adult If Something Isn’t Right
If you feel that your roommate is truly struggling to make friends or something truly feels off and you’re concerned for his or her well being, then tell a trusted adult such as your RA. He or she might be able to give you advice on the situation or reach out to your roommate if you don’t feel like you are close enough to take it into your own hands. But in the end, don’t ignore it and it doesn’t hurt to tell a trusted adult.
People dealing with mental illness handle it differently than everybody else so not all these tips will apply to your roommate, but the tips are worth trying to best figure out how to coexist with your roommate. These tips can also apply to the friends you are making in college that might suffer from a mental illness, and will specifically be helpful if you decide to live with them one year. That being said, if you are truly uncomfortable with your roommate who suffers from a mental illness, talk to a trusted adult such as your RA. It might be worth switching roommates because if it’s uncomfortable for you, odds are it is uncomfortable for your roommate.
If you have a roommate dealing with mental illness, I hope this helps. If you have tips that weren’t mentioned that you have found helpful from personal experience, please feel free to share!
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Hey everybody! I am a junior studying English Writing while double minoring in Creative Writing and Music. I love to read, write, ski, travel, sail, and sing. I spend the majority of my time with my family and friends, but my "me" time consists of lots of reading and writing. I hope to one day be a published author and possibly work for a publishing house as an editorial assistant because who doesn't want to read for a living! That being said, I prefer to read science fiction & fantasy, romance, and historical fiction; and I enjoy reading about fairytales, folklore, and myths. Some of my favorite series are The Selection series by Kiera Cass, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, and the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.