Be a Mental Health Ally

At the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, we are committed to a culture of support, awareness, and enhanced mental health. Taking the steps to address a concern with a roommate, friend, classmate, or coworker is intimidating, but can save a life. 

Know Your Role

Friend or classmate, instructor or manager, you are not their doctor or therapist. Just listen, lend support, and consider referring them to a campus resource for professional support if appropriate. 

If you are a non-confidential University employee, you must report cases of misconduct.

Notice the Signs

  • Missed classes or assignments
  • Inappropriate or exaggerated behavior
  • Reduced participation 
  • Change in personal hygiene
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Threats of harm to self or others

If the situation steers to imminent risk of physical harm, please call 911.

Facts First

“I missed you in class the last few days. How are you doing?”

  • Approach the conversation in private
  • Clearly state that you’ve noticed a change.  
  • Don’t tease or make assumptions about their behavior.  

Actively Listen

“I’d like to hear more about that.”

  • Utilize caring, comforting body language to ease tension.
  • Keep any questions open-ended.
  • Avoid making comparison statements. Remember, this conversation is about them, not you. 
  • Don't blame or shame them for their feelings or actions.

Offer Support

“How can I help?”

  • Thank them for sharing with you. It takes courage to share moments of hardship. 
  • Offer to share available resources with them. If you can, offer to join them as they take their chosen next steps.
  • Show your ongoing care by following up a few days later, extending an invite to an event, or continuing to make yourself available if they need it.

Set Your Boundaries

In order to be an effective ally, it’s necessary to maintain your own well-being. While you may want to be the best ally possible, setting clear boundaries will help maintain a healthy, supportive relationship, and limit creating concerns for yourself. As a peer, friend, instructor, or coworker you are not a mental health professional. Encourage them to seek professional help for more detailed or long-term support. 

You could say, “Thanks so much for sharing. You're really going through a lot, and I want to make sure you get the care you need from someone who can actually help. Let's search online together for the campus counseling office, and I'll stay with you while you call to make an initial appointment."