Friday, 16 October 2020

How to Make Friends at University When You Struggle with Mental Health Difficulties

6 tips and tricks from a recent graduate on making friends at university when you struggle with mental health. 
- - Hester


The best thing I took away from my university experience was an amazing group of supportive and like-minded friends — people I feel close and connected to, who uplifted, inspired and supported me. But finding them wasn’t always easy. Meeting new people and building friendships can be incredibly difficult when you’re struggling with mental health — be it anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD and/or other illnesses. Yet friends form one of the foundations of our ability to cope with the problems that life throws at us. And building meaningful friendships is one of the best ways to nurture better mental health. Good university friends are like diamonds — hard to find, but so incredibly precious and valuable, the effort of finding them will always be worth it. So, without further ado, here are 6 top tips for how to make friends at university when you struggle with mental health... 

1. Reach out to Students Who Also Struggle 
Friends who have been through similar ordeals, tend to understand each other that little bit better. So reach out to students at your university who struggle with similar mental health problems. Sign up to group counselling sessions through your university’s student support centre, and get to know people through mental-health-oriented Facebook groups and societies. 

2. Open Up 
Talking about your mental health, especially with new people, can be daunting and feel incredibly vulnerable. But the moment you start opening up to others, you’ll realize just how many other students struggle too. Being transparent about your illness will help you build a strong support network around you; find like-minded, understanding friends; and cultivate a safe space where you can communicate your needs and experiences, free from judgement. 

3. Follow Your Passions 
Pursuing activities you love is one of the best ways to find friends whose values align with yours. Student unions typically host hundreds of societies, clubs and events each year. Joining a student group is a fantastic way to find people passionate about similar things as you and be a part of a friendly community! 

4. Use Friendship Apps 
While social distancing measures are set to persist for months to come, many in-person opportunities for friendship making are out of the question. Friendship apps, however, are a convenient and simple way to find like-minded people. So, if you’re having a bad mental health day in bed, you can still chat and make friends with students nearby! I found Serendip a brilliant app for connecting more deeply with like-minded students nearby who share my core values. 

5. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone — But be Kind to Yourself! 
Pushing yourself to attend an event, talk to someone new in class, or reach out to a friend online can feel like a huge effort when you’re feeling low, anxious or stressed. But pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is essential to build and maintain strong friendships. This said, making time for self-care; removing yourself from social situations which are uncomfortable or distressing, is okay. Your mental health comes first, always. 

6. Get Professional Support
If you’re feeling lonely or isolated during your time at university, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Seeking guidance and talking about your feelings and friendship-making struggles with a counsellor, will help you process your emotions and build better self-esteem and confidence. Likewise, Samaritans offers free to call service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year if you’re struggling to cope and need someone to talk to. Reaching out for help is a strength, not a weakness.

You can find more resources on student mental health and support at Student Space or Transition into University.


Hi there, I’m Hester - a recent graduate from the University of East Anglia. Like many others, I had my fair share of mental health ups and downs throughout my four years of studying. While there’s so much pressure on students to be having the time of their life at university, and mental health stigma persists in these spaces, I want to help struggling students and graduates feel less alone. Mental illness among students is more common than most people think - I believe it is essential that we nurture more open conversations surrounding the topic and help build safe and friendly spaces for students to talk about their experiences.

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