Supportive relationships and feelings of connectedness are protective factors that can help improve mental health and lower risk for suicide. JED’s evidence-based Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention for Colleges and Universities has helped hundreds of schools across the nation create a culture of caring that supports student well-being and mental health. 

JED’s Comprehensive Approach can be helpful for families and friends looking for ways to support the mental well-being of the young person in their life while a student is at home.

Help Develop Life Skills

Problem solving, decision making, identifying and managing emotions, and healthy living are all important skills for coping with stress.

  • Invite your student to learn how to cook with you or participate in other activities that strengthen their ability to live independently and manage unexpected change in healthy ways.
  • Help them establish regular patterns related to managing emotions, communicating needs, and managing stress. 
  • Help them organize their space and schedule so they create a routine that supports their academic success while also preserving core relationships with friends and others they care about and rely on. 

Encourage Social Connectedness and Look for Signs of Distress

Family, friends, and peers can be excellent “gatekeepers” to first notice a distressed student and their need to be connected with professional help. It is more difficult to notice when one is experiencing extreme anxiety or distress if they are isolated. 

  • Check in with your student. 
  • Set regular times to connect, share meals together, or watch favorite shows or movies. 
  • Use video technology to help mitigate the natural disappointment and loneliness students may experience.

Support Help-Seeking Behavior

In times of emotional distress, many college students report that they would reach out to campus professionals such as professors and academic advisors, as well as to friends and classmates.

  • Remind your student that they can come to you for support if they are feeling overwhelmed. 
  • Try to listen carefully at three levels: the content of what they are saying, the emotions they are feeling, and their behaviors in response to those thoughts and feelings. 

Ensure Safe Environments

We know that if the means to self-harm are removed or limited in an environment, it can be protective for students who are experiencing suicidal thoughts or other mental health challenges. This is called “means restriction.”

  • Limit access to firearms, poisonous chemicals, medicines, and rooftops, windows or other high places. 
  • Check your home to make sure it’s secure and safe for those who are in distress or at risk for self-harm. 

Utilize Mental Health and Substance Misuse Services

  • Be aware of local resources that are accessible and affordable. Crisis Text Line and TalkSpace can also be helpful. 
  • Encourage students to review their school’s counseling center website and other communications for mental health resources.

Remember to check in with the young person in your life. Talk to them and encourage them to seek help when they need it. Educate yourself about the impact of the changing world on them. Familiarize yourself with important resources to support them in reaching out for support.